Archives » February 11th, 2005

February 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Viola

She doesn’t even read this site, but I still want to put up happy birthday wishes to my wife Viola!

Shrinking Papers

We’ve all heard about how newspapers are shrinking. Not only are the sheets physically getting smaller, but there’s more room devoted to ads, leaving less room for stories. Well, both of the major papers in Northern Nevada, the Reno Gazette Journal and Carson’s Nevada Appeal, just unveiled new designs this month. And, sure enough, there’s less room for stories. But, surprisingly, the worst place is on the front page! Let’s take a look.

The Reno Gazette-Journal is Northern Nevada’s largest paper, in terms of circulation and number of pages. Under its new redesign, stories got pushed aside on the front page to make room for other things. But, surprisingly, the biggest culprit wasn’t ads, it was the masthead that grew the most! Let’s see (click to enlarge):



The RGJ’s masthead, which has always included promo material, used to take up 15% of the page, with the first headline starting about 3.5 inches down. But now they’ve added so much whitespace that the masthead takes up 19%, and the headlines have been pushed down another inch. They tried to make up for it at the bottom of the page by dumping things like the weather and air quality reports, and just printing a thin index. But if you’re just looking above the fold, you’re getting less room for stories. And if they put a huge picture like this every day, that’s even less room.

But the RGJ is tame compared to what the Nevada Appeal has done to their front page. Take a look:



Here we have the masthead problem again. Not only did they add white space, but they moved promotional material into a space where there was none before. All of this makes the masthead jump from 12% to 20%, nearly doubling in size and pushing the headline down almost two full inches. And if that’s not enough, they added a sidebar on the left for more promotional space. A sidebar! That takes up over two more inches of the space on the page. Again, they tried to compensate at the bottom, but that can’t hide the fact that only 54% of their front page is reserved for stories. Half the page is promo stuff and ads. That’s compared to 73% in the old design and 67% for the new Gazette-Journal.

Newspapers are indeed shrinking. Of course this is easy to blame on websites, but this has been happening to papers for a good long time now. Go count the number of words on the front page of any paper from the year 1900, and compare it to now. Maybe it’s our short attention spans or something.

And at least the Appeal seems to have stopped their nasty habit of running full-page photos above the fold. I mean, for some things it’s understandable. But they would have a picture of the snowstorm, or of a kid with a dog, and it would take up most or all of the available space above the fold, with nothing but a headline to read. And then beneath it they’d have maybe two stories. And if you were lucky one of them would be related to the photo.

So I guess we’re making progress?