Innovation in Fairfax County: USA TODAY / Gannett

Farifax County hub remains a constant as evolution of Gannett and the USA Today Network continues.

Headquartered in Fairfax County, Gannett, USA Today and USA Today Network have experienced monumental changes beginning with the company's move to Tysons Corner in 2001 and coinciding with a colossal shift of sands in the media and advertising universe.

Best known for its colorful and revolutionary flagship publication USA Today and more than 100 local news organizations, Gannett was established in 1923 and became the largest U.S newspaper publisher, based on total daily circulation. Today, it's much more than publisher of the nation's newspapers of record. It is an innovative, digitally focused media and marketing company committed to strengthening communities across its network.     

"We're proud of our Tysons Corner flagship headquarters," Gannett Senior Vice President Jason Jedlinksi tells E-Bird Extra.

The company split in 2015, spinning off TEGNA as a separate broadcast television and digital media entity that will soon to move to a new home atop Boro Tower in Tysons Corner. Gannett and USA Today remain firmly entrenched on Jones Branch Drive in the impressive, two-tower campus now known as Valo Park, where the news of the nation and world continues to be filtered through a bustling newsroom.

"Fairfax County is really the hub of USA Today's national operations," says Jason Jedlinksi, Gannett's senior vice president and head of consumer products. As Jedlinksi speaks, reporters and editors mill about in the newsroom, some manning the phones, others editing copy.

"Right here, in Tysons Corner, editors are monitoring stories coming in from towns like Milwaukee, Detroit, Des Moines, Phoenix. All of that news comes through Fairfax County where we're aggregating, repackaging and distributing it across all our media brands, worldwide."

Gannett, in fact, has placed increasing emphasis on its local reporting while seeking to engage a younger, more digitally oriented audience.

"Gannett is the largest local media and marketing solutions company in America," Jedlinski says. "What a lot of people may not know is that here, from Fairfax County, we have an operation that reaches nearly 50 percent of the U.S. digital population and more millennials than Buzzfeed. In addition to breaking news and passion topics, we also offer a growing portfolio of lifestyle brands in areas such as health and wellness, fitness, parenting, fashion and cooking as we look to serve the needs of our diverse user base."

USA Today debuted in 1982, revolutionizing the newspaper industry with short stories, color pages and a focus on graphics. Gannett and USA Today have continued to lead the evolution of the publishing world with strategies and tactics hatched at the Tysons Corner headquarters. And the location lends itself well to innovation, Jedlinski says.

"We're proud of our Tysons Corner flagship headquarters," he says. "It's easy for our employees to get to and from work and for our business partners and clients to reach us. Moving here from Chicago, I was thrilled to find the easy access from Dulles and Reagan airports. And Fairfax County is a great place for our employees to work and live.

"It also gives us the access to talent from a diverse group of industries, whether it be government, financial services, defense -- you name it. We have access to skill sets and ranges of experience that really help us to connect in communities across the nation and across the world."

Employing content and consumer experiences to attract both audience and advertisers remains at the heart of the USA Today Network effort.

"We are still committed to enterprise, investigative journalism -- telling stories that matter," Jedlinski says. "That's a huge part of our heritage and something we're proud to continue -- that hard-hitting journalism that won us three Pulitzer Prizes this year alone (Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register).

"At the same time, we see our duty to help communities connect, act and thrive, and that involves everything from fighting corruption and waste to helping people live their best lives by knowing where to go this weekend and what restaurant to check out. We provide the 'news you can use' and the stories that benefit consumers, (such as) helping them save for college, buy a new home, as we also provide marketing solutions that help businesses in those communities."

For Gannett and the USA Today Network brand it has become necessity to be increasingly nimble and more innovative.

"I think the most innovative aspect of the USA Today Network is the way we're reinventing ourselves with consumers and advertisers,'' Jedlinksi says. "We are moving beyond headlines that tell you what happened overnight to really being a utility and a daily part of people's lives and experiences."

Much of that revolves around the shift toward digital markets.

The USA Today Network touches the lives of more than 120 million people each month with trusted, award-winning content, membership services and advertiser products and services. There have been more than 24.5 million downloads of USA Today's award-winning app and 4.5 million downloads of apps associated with its local media organizations. Recently, USA Today introduced new app options including "My Topic," which enables users to follow specific newsmakers, writers or topics of their choice.

So, what else is new at Gannett?

The company continues the development of fresh storytelling offerings, using podcasts virtual reality technologies and drones. In Tysons Corner, the company has a team working on augmented reality, virtual reality and those new storytelling formats. For example, the 3-2-1 Launch app is an augmented reality experience that takes users to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"Innovation isn't an option or a choice in our industry," Jedlinksi says. "We're all fighting for survival and that motivates us to think of new ways to package and personalize information for audiences to increase our relevance. We have brands (local publications) that are more than 100 years old, but we are constantly reinventing ourselves.

"When it comes to providing advertising in our communities, it used to be about buying a page in a print newspaper. Now, we're a marketing service firm that leverages our broad bench of analytics to help businesses connect with their community across different channels in different ways on different avenues."