The state of newspaper design in 2010: Your thoughts

DESIGN 2010

WHAT WILL BE THE STATE of newspaper design next year?

I have my own thoughts. Among them:

1.         Smaller size.

2.        More color.

3.        Shorter stories.

4.        More points of entry.

5.        More integration with the web.

6.        More integration with social networking services like Facebook and Tweeter.

And, unfortunately, some newspapers will fail to see the present, much less the future. They’ll plod along with Times text, Helvetica headlines, tint blocks, raw wraps, passive headlines, overwritten stories…all those things that most of us left behind a couple of decades ago.

That’s my thinking, in a nutshell. I thought I would keep my comments brief so you can read what some editors and designers think. Following are thoughts submitted by readers of this blog and my monthly design column. I appreciate their contributions and I believe you’ll find them insightful.

READERS TODAY WANT well-designed, well-organized content. Don’t believe me —test it yourself. Hand a text only, slopped together newspaper with badly done B/W photos to a readers along with a paper that is well-designed and has a good mix of color photos, stories, graphics and a nice mix of headline variety and white space.

Even readers of small, community papers can note the difference. They may not be able to say I like the 34 pt san serif Palatino italic over the 36 pt New Times Bold, but they can see and tell the difference.

The other thing all papers—large and small—must face in the coming year is the switch to full process color on every page. Like everything else, the printing world is competitive. Papers large and small will go to the printer who provides color options that will enhance the paper’s ad revenue along with the pull for a better overall product.

I still love my old 35 mm Canon, but digital photography and fully paginated papers are where we are headed in 2010. We don’t wear polyester suits and sport big perms dos while dancing under disco balls anymore. The newspaper world needs to move forward into the next century along with our readers and the rest of the world.

Rosemary Dellinger | Editor | Review Independent | Toppenish, WA


AS YOU LAUNCH the discussion on the “State of Design in 2010,” I would say our design work is one of the reasons this newspaper has experienced positive circ growth for the past four consecutive months (in poor, depressed Michigan no less!).

Creating excellent content for readers is a given. But combining that content with functional, creative design has been a relatively new concept here in the past 3-4 years. It is working, however. We’ve measured the impact of design on long-term and on certain days—all the feedback has been positive.

Is there an expectation of good design? An awful lot of our readers have made this comment: “Our little paper looks like a ‘real’, big city paper.” So yes, on some level people are expecting us to deliver on the art side of the equation.
Does design matter? Yes. So we make it a part of our routine everyday, from the front page to the last. Any editor who is doing anything less than that is cheating readers and sticking his or her head in the sand.

Dave Clark | Editor In Chief | The Pioneer | Big Rapids, MI

I THINK WE’RE GOING to see a lot more free publications in the marketplace. This presents another challenge, since retailers aren’t crazy about devoting shelf space for a product that isn’t profitable.

Once you get your coveted space on the rack, then the other goal is to make your product stand out from the rest of the pack without being too gaudy.

Bolder flags, brighter colors, use of skyboxes and larger photos will be the norm.

Still, even the most attractive front page won’t retain readers and advertisers if the content is dull or poorly-written.

Mike Lange | Executive Director | Maine Press Assn.

I THINK THAT community newspaper design is evolving and growing into a mass marketing media, rather than just print.
The print product will always have a following, but as circulation numbers plummet, publishers are scrambling for a way to retain much needed advertising dollars, and readers.
I think that consumers are going to get their news in a variety of places in the future. They do already, via TV, Print, Online and the newest, smallest, information gadget available to consumers: the cell phone.

I think that consumers will not want a full print package everyday. I think they are going to want to get brief headlines of interest sent to them via their choice of social networking sites such as twitter, a blog or Facebook. Consumers sign up for these, they want to be informed! These are social sites that the younger generation and increasingly hip older generation are tuned into. This is news that is updated throughout the day, brief blips of information that they can then hit on for a full story if it peaks their interest…or perhaps read the full story in tomorrow’s edition?

How we, as newspapers, can market this to our advertisers is the key question facing us today.

How can we profit from something that is essentially free?

We are going to have to incorporate an online advertising package with our tweets and blog postings…perhaps smart ads that are filtered by key words in the post? Will small community newspapers have the technology to create such advertising? Google ads are prevalent on some blogs…why wouldn’t a local newspaper be able to profit from those as well as the individual blogger? A few dollars a day are better than nothing!

Most social networking sites have a spot for advertising. Why not have our own posted on the social media site we choose to present our news information?

We need to embrace this relevant, current, interactive information trend and incorporate it into our news package. We need to quit shoving the daily print edition down our readers throats when some of them obviously want only to get headlines sent to a cell phone or their e-mail. Even newspapers with paid online content could drive readers to it with a free tweet now and then, and hint at bonus online content not in our print editions. Why not create a new generation of readership?

Lauri Shillings | Design Department Supervisor | Journal Review | Crawfordsville, IN

SOME NEWSPAPERS are becoming smaller in page size to make up for costs associated with printing, so I think the designers will make up for this in one of two ways: Decrease the size of display headlines, graphics, white space, etc. to make room for the story (not what I’d prefer to see), or start asking writers to write shorter, snappier stories with several pullouts and infographics to make them more interesting to the reader. There has also been a trend for readers to get their news from online sources, so we may see page designers transition into web designers or even emulating some design features found online in the print edition.

Misty S. Brown | Designer/Photo Assignment Coordinator | Promotions Dept. | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

WHAT I SEE (and hope for) is a trend toward cleaner, more focused design.

The world is full of busy, in-your-face headlines and information (e.g., tabloid front pages, TV news with multiple flashing crawlers, TV picture-in-a-picture inside another picture, etc.).

We have a responsibility to present our readers with a more organized and—dare I say—calmer view of our various corners of the world. This is not to say that we must be dull and boring. No, we can be interesting and exciting without seeming to scream everything to everyone.

The old-and-stodgy newspapers still won’t change; in fact I see some that just look older and more archaic as time passes. But those of us with all our senses engaged will honor our readers’ sensibilities and needs more than clinging to old ways, old technology and status quo.

The longer times are tough, the more we must learn, experiment and lead the way. Fortunately, we have prophets like you, Ed, who can occasionally raise our heads above our computer screens to see the bigger picture and to keep our eyes (and minds) open to broader possibilities. Thanks for that!

Jean Doran Matua | Publisher and Editor | Tri-County News | Kimball, MN

I THINK community newspapers are going to have to redesign their papers for shorter, more concise articles emphasizing on local content. With Facebook, Twitter and the Internet, community newspapers need to have sharper designs with quicker reads.

Community newspapers are also going to have to focus more and more on local as major newspapers pull away from local content. I’m not saying community newspapers need to look like USA Today and be confusing with too many graphics, but we need to emphasize sharper, quicker designs that give readers easier reads.

We will still have obituaries, weddings, birth announcements and local content, but articles on the county commissioners’ meetings, school board and town halls will have to be ones that readers can easily digest and they need to be designed for easier reads.

Melissa Perner | Publisher | The Ozona Stockman | Ozona, TX

Many thanks to all of you who offered your thoughts. 2010 promises again to be another roller-coaster year for newspapers. I’m looking forward to the ride!

How about you? What are your thoughts about where we’re headed in 2010? Let us know by adding your comments.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The state of newspaper design in 2010: Your thoughts

  1. My paper chain has already had three web size decreases in four years. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of that. Still, I guess it beats cutting personnel, which my paper is trying valiantly not to do.

    In the last year we’ve started putting process color on almost every page as well, and added skyboxes to the section-front strip ads. We’ve had a few oddball ads like one where the client’s cutout picture is actually superimposed over the folio. I’ll bet we start selling a lot more strange ad positions.

    Ego tabs have dwindled in the last couple of years because of tight budgets, but I can picture an increase in those in the next couple of years. Every business and non-profit likes to be featured as if it were of major interest.

    I have a suspicion we’ll probably see more papers moving toward an e-edition model for the full paper, to complement the standard website.

  2. Oh, and wire content is already beginning to be used more like cutbook filler than actual news. I can easily see it ending up on the ash heap of history.

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