Monday, January 19, 2009

Gazette redesign

The new design of The Billings Gazette, unveiled this morning, makes the word "broadsheet" obsolete. The term used to distinguish standard dailies from tabloid-sized newspapers, such as the Outpost. But the width of the Gazette has now shrunk to the same width as The Outpost. The only difference is that the Gazette page is a few inches longer. Guess they could call it the "longsheet."

In a column announcing the change, Gazette Editor Steve Prosinski says the narrower format "is becoming the industry standard as newspapers strive to control newsprint costs."

Of course, a narrower page does not in itself save newsprint. To do that, you have to not only have narrower pages but print the same number, or fewer, of them every day. Narrower pages do two things: They allow newspapers to print the same number of pages and perpetuate the illusion that nothing has changed. They also make ads smaller.

Notice, for example, that the Outpost is laid out in a four-column format. A two-column ad in the Outpost is nearly five inches wide. But when the Gazette changed to our width, it stuck with the old six-column format (the same as Outpost classified ads). So a two-column ad, which already was narrower than one in the Outpost, shrinks to about three and a quarter inches. Chances are, prices didn't drop to match.

I'm not indifferent to the Gazette's problem. Times are tough for newspapers -- us, too. I saw an old Gazette buddy over the weekend and told him that I have worked for three newspaper chains. The first two are no longer in the newspaper business, and my goal, I've often said, is to outlast the third. Right now, I'd say we're about neck and neck.


Dave Rye said...

My first thought upon going to my front porch and picking up today's Gazette was that now it looks like The Missoulian.

Kirk Dooley said...

The Arizona Republic went to this size a few months back. The front section is still 90% ads. (However, the East Valley Trib -- which is now a 4-day-a-week free paper -- has gone to a tabloid size, and may well be the only tabloid left in the Mountain Time Zone unless somebody actually buys the Rocky Mountain News in Denver with the intent to keep publishing it.)

I take my paper every morning (no matter which one it may be) and seperate it into single sheets (that way, I can turn the full page ads around and ignore them). I also throw out the classifieds and coupons and ad inserts (which take up almost 2/3rds of the Sunday Republic). Another thing the Republic does is charges more for single copies depending on how big the paper is (Monday-Thursday is usually 50 cents, Friday and Saturday is 75, and Sunday is $2.00). This despite the fact that the reason there are more pages is because there are more ads (so they get paid on both ends). (Monday's Republic sold at the newsstands for 75 cents because of the Cardinals making it to the Super Bowl, so you paid more for a paper most folks will save because of the historical significance of it. I suspect that Tuesday's paper will cost more as well because of the inauguration. Speaking of which, The Republic invited folks to go to their website so they could sign up to have their name put on a Good Luck Mr. President section. I was going to do so, until I got to the website and found I would have to pay $25 for the privilege.)

Chuck Rightmire said...

I've seen two editions now and it's ugly. At first I'd thought to withhold judgement for a while; but those garish black, sans-serif headlines and the single-column articles are grating.

Mark T said...

I too am sympathetic to the Gazette's predicament. Wish they weren't so sneaky though. But that's the way we do business with one another - always trying to pull a fast one. When my daughters were doing paper routes and the Gazette routinely raised its prices, they always said to the subscribers to remember that the paper carrier was getting a share of the increase. It was usually about a penny.