Tuesday, October 11, 2005

ALL NEW!!! (but only to save their own ass)

Tomorrow is the big day at Minnesota's largest daily newspaper.

Wednesday, October 12 marks the official launch of the revamped Star Tribune and StarTribune.com.

After what they define as two years of work leading up to this total overhaul, we will get to see the new Strib. I have dug through the guide which was posted on their website describing the redesign and the plethora of 'quick read' items included in it.


Having gone through a similar newspaper redesign in early 2001 when the fish wrap factory I was at 'down-webbed' (the width of the pages was reduced to conform to a nation-wide trend), I have some insight into what happens during a redesign. While our particular redesign went over much like a lead balloon due to the fact that the managing editor of our smallish daily simply took into account only his opinion, I feel that two years of research and ongoing conversation within the company walls and listening to readers will lead to the best product they can produce.

However, I think the idea of redesigning every facet of a newspaper is a bit extreme. By doing this, you run the risk of alienating your base of subscribers, who in this case, has actually increased in recent months while the national trend is lagging newspaper subscriptions and aging readers.

By trying to appeal to the coveted demographic of 18-34 year-olds with a relative glut of disposable income, it is easy to see the motive behind this hefty overhaul.

After all, with any printed product, you need subscribers to buy it and read to get advertisers to buy space. The Strib is only trying to attract the next generation of readers to their newspaper much like a previous generation may have been drawn to newspapers with the advent of color photos in newspapers.

I have seen how newspapers have evolved and the Strib is correct in adapting multiple entry points and a sort of 'quick read' format that is common on glossy magazines with color on each page and a splashy cover dotted with short but attention-getting headlines that will hopefully lead to consumers picking up that particular issue and buying it.

Newspapers need to evolve or they will become extinct. With competition from 24-hour cable news channels and the literally millions of sources for news on the internet, the competition is fierce and, in time, we will see newspapers further evolve and, in time, you won't even be able to recognize them as the newspaper from a decade ago.

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