Monday, September 08, 2008

New Pensacola look a glimpse of future GCI papers?

[Experiment: launch today of new single-copy look; bigger view]

Gannett is quietly experimenting with a new front-page design just for single-copy editions. It's a change meant to attract increasingly elusive young readers, 18 to 34 years old -- especially, women. If the new look unveiled today by the Pensacola News Journal is a hit, it could be adopted by the other 83 papers in the community newspaper division. "If the single-copy design is a hit, other papers will be picking it up, too,'' a tipster says.

News Journal top editor Dick Schneider explained the changes in a post on his blog: "Those who purchase single-copy newspapers will see a significant difference on the front page, as we design the top part of the page to highlight the most important stories of the day." Home-delivery copies maintain their more traditional look.

Chasing lost circulation
The Pensacola experiment comes as surrounding Escambia County suffers a dramatic economic slowdown, tied to the area's depressed real estate market. Like all newspapers, Pensacola is struggling to recover lost advertising revenue and circulation, especially among young readers. Pensacola's circulation is 57,148 daily, and 71,139 Sunday, according to the 2007 Annual Report to shareholders.

In today's design debut, the top half of the front page -- which is what would-be readers see in a newspaper vending-machine's "window" -- looks more like a features front. Three "stories" there are really summaries of articles on inside pages.

For example, the federal government's seizure yesterday of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is presented as four bulleted items (inset, left): What happened. Who will it help? Who won't it help? What could happen?

Appealing to different readers
The main "story" on the top half -- "Stay or Go?" -- is about why young local residents are considering leaving the area, a good topic for an edition targeted at young readers.

Demographics are driving the change, Schneider says:
  • Single-copy sales are about 18% of overall circulation. Buyers are mostly young; 42% are between 18 and 34 years old -- the largest single group.
  • Home delivery customers are a bit older; about three-quarters of Baby Boomers have their newspaper delivered to their home or office. They like the traditional feel of newsprint, as well as the traditional look of the newspaper.
Pensacola is the only newspaper I know that's now experimenting with this design. Is your paper considering a similar change? What's your reaction to today's new single-copy-only News Journal? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: Newseum]


  1. I think that's a fine idea ... though there's no need to have two different editions.

    Why not just stick with the "single-sale" product?

  2. That's very interesting. I remember a few years ago during one of our one-day on site 'retreats' we were discussing ideas for improvement, change, etc. and I mentioned redesigning the front page to look more like a webpage and everyone looked at me like I was crazy (I was not from the Newsroom dept.) I like the looks of this front page. Can't imagine the logistics of printing separate home delivery and single copy though.

  3. I think it looks fantastic, but I also want to know why they're spending the money/time to print 2 separate products. Just create 1 edition with the new design.

  4. Any more copy editors or page designers added to the Pensacola staff? Are current staffing levels adequate to allow for an additional, intensively designed page? Sounds vaguely like the TMZ BS they forced on us a year or so ago.

  5. Richard Roesgen, now publisher in Sheboygan, WI, experimented with that in Fond du Lac nearly 10 years ago - the entire top half of the front page was all refers and photos - not sure what the results were, but it sure made an impression in the box.

    Stories that were featured were typically the strongest the edition had, so you really felt that you needed to pick up a copy - and why shouldn't that work, magazines have done it forever.

  6. looks great and its a great idea to be innovative to attract younger readers.

  7. A: 18-34 is not a demographic.

    B: The design of the paper is NOT why people in this age range aren't buying newspapers.

  8. This isn't innovation. It's more than 10-years-old. Many newspapers have tried this technique with either flat or negative results.

    Even a visual journalist like myself knows that no matter how cool the typography, color and photos are, if you don't have the right content, the design is irrelevant. You may sucker someone to pick up the newspaper once, but not a second time.

  9. "Those who purchase single-copy newspapers will see a significant difference on the front page, as we design the top part of the page to highlight the most important stories of the day."

    What? Isn't that what we're supposed to do anyway? This is a new revelation? Next thing you know, they'll announce a groundbreaking policy that home-delivered newspapers will be placed on subscrbers' doorsteps, rather than be tossed in the bushes.


  10. Catchy design. But people want news from a news organization. Did anyone else check out the reader comments?

  11. Smells of desperation to me. If I'm a 25-year-old who gets tons of daily headlines and other info from an iPhone, BlackBerry, or other wired sources, there's no way this stuff would entice me back to print.

  12. Great idea, Pensacola! Sounds like you have a forward thinking editor. Of course, though, if this idea takes off, the Big G will cram it down all other newspapers' throats .. it's the one-size-fits-all company. You know, we talk about hyper-local news and coverage, yet we are all carbon copies when it comes to how we deliver it. That's NOT the solution, Gannett!

  13. Early for an appointment, I watched people passing and stopping and sometimes buying papers from a rack in a high traffic area. It was a big news day, with local corruption story, an explosion photo and hot button legislation story. I thought the above-the-fold layout was powerful.
    Most people glanced at it as they walked quickly by. Some people stopped and read the headlines and looked at the photo without touching the box. The people who bought the paper didn't look at it before they dropped their quarters in the slot.

  14. This doesn't bother me so much. It's nice that they're doing something different. However, I think sometimes we journalists don't know too much of a good thing when it comes to flash over substance. I once sat down with a newspaper publisher to go over some ideas for something (not a front page), and he said, "Can't you do this without so many words?" Sometimes news is words. People who don't like reading should -- and do -- watch TV.

  15. Late to this dance but I must. I never liked what our paper did...made it look like a web page. Too much stuff crammed into too little space, especially when we cut the papers' size. Other times looks like a comic book! This would be great...nice bold, easy to see. I however would not like to see 2 separate editions. Our press breaks down/stops way too much already without giving them a real reason!

  16. I think the new format looks too much like USATODAY; way too cartoonish.

    You are running the risk of alienating your existing customer base while trying to entice younger readers that probably are getting their news off blogs.

    Sorry to say, most existing and previous customers get most of their news off CNN and other 24 hr cable sources. Local news from the 5 o’clock news.

    Newspapers are about to go the way of the telegraph or typewriter, obsolete technology.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.