USA Today Decides to Play Games for Real


Newspapers have had, and are still having, a rough time transitioning their business models to the digital world. One prominent title has decided to roll with the punches and make a big investment in its digital games pages.

USA Today this week unveiled the first of a wave of 60 new games to accompany its ever-popular crosswords, partnering with game-maker Arkadium and its catalog of more than 300 games. “Games have been a very consistently high area of traffic for us, but it’s been on auto-pilot for years,” says John Geddes, director of digital gaming entertainment at the paper. “We decided to focus on it and see how much damage we can do in traffic and engagement.”

The greater selection promises advertisers a more segmented approach to game players, who number one third of the world’s population, according to Arkadium CEO Kenny Rosenblatt. “We’re sitting on 10 years of history of knowing what demos like what types of games,” he says. “We have a catalog, and we can work with large publishers to tailor their offerings. If an advertiser wants a certain demo and it’s underserved by the publisher, we can go in and pull one out to match it or create a new game.”

Women over 35, generally speaking, like card games, says Rosenblatt. Players under 25 have shorter attention spans and need the instant gratifications of lots of rewards. Older demographics prefer brain-teasers like Sudoku and crosswords. Under the arrangement, Arkadium will earn a percentage of ad revenues accrued by USA Today in its games.

In a new wrinkle, USA Today’s sales staff will be offering marketers segmentation by daypart of games. Geddes says that internal studies show, for instance, that desktop-oriented games play better at midday when people are on their lunch breaks, and that games suited to tablet play work better between 6 and 10 p.m.

“We want to achieve increases in the holy trinity—traffic, engagement, and revenue,” Geddes says. In the early going, the first two have been going through the roof. If that continues, the revenue will follow.

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