[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.