Thursday, 24 January 2013

Newspaper bills: the good and not so good

Here's an interesting location for this Jessops bill from the Leicester Mercury ... right outside the Jessops store. It certainly reinforces the relevance of the story. This is just one of several examples that have been sent my way following my pieces on the art of newspaper bill writing (here and here). Some are good, some not so. 

This one from the Hackney Gazette perfectly demonstrates the danger in leaving old bills behind the new ones. Unfortunate - not least for the unluckiest man in London.

The sole purpose of the bill is, of course, to make the reader pick up the paper - so you be the judge as to whether these ones work. 

There are certainly some here that would tease the reader to buy. If you have any bills that have worked (or didn't), please let me have them on

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Local World vacancies as editors move on

Two of Northcliffe's heavyweight editors are bowing out. Ian Mean (left), veteran editor of the Gloucester Citizen, is taking on a new role as content director of Local World's South West titles. Philip Welch (right), who has enjoyed 43 years in regional newspapers, is retiring from the Mid Somerset Series and Somerset Standard, based in Wells, in May. He has been editor there for 15 years. Both are great newspapermen and I wish them well. Their moves have left a couple of vacancies for editorships in Local World. If you are up for it the details for the Citizen job are here and the Wells job advert is here

Adverts breaking out of the box

This advert, with balloons floating into an inappropriate story, rightly caused a flurry of disapproval on Twitter. It is pretty awful. But it's the execution, not the concept, that's the problem. Any sub or layout artist faced with this advert should have opted for a lighter story, rather than one about baby deaths. Insensitive at best, crass at worst. There has been a move towards 'radical' advertising in recent months. Adverts, once hemmed in at the bottom of the page and dominated by editorial, have been breaking out all over. Adscapes have allowed advertisers to think out of the box. Now we see adverts at the top of a page with editorial below or adverts jutting into copy. The rigid borders have been breached. Here are some recent examples:

None of these are offensive. Some are very good. I wouldn't even say they were particularly radical. Magazines have been doing this kind of thing for years. Some newspapers have slaughtered other sacred cows. Pages 2, 3 and the back, once fiercely guarded by editors (myself included), have become attractive and legitimate slots for advertisers.

The South Wales Evening Post carried this advert for Swansea FC's new centenary kit on pages 2 and 3. Nicely done, with big impact and huge local relevance.  

Even the front page has come up for grabs. I was as surprised as anyone to see The Guardian, Independent and Daily Telegraph dressed in Vodafone's bright red last October. 

It followed The Sun giving its front and back over to Sky 3D in July. For free newspapers such as Metro, this was always an option ... but it was a no-go area on paid-for dailies. All that has now changed. 

The Hull Daily Mail came up with a variation, and managed to protect its splash, with this an interesting approach - a translucent wrap - last year. 

I was also interested in this cover from the Lincolnshire Echo. The paper was campaigning to save Lincolnshire Prison from closure and recruited the support of leading local lawyers who paid for the privilege of arguing the case on Page 1.
All of this would have made me wince 20 years ago when I was editing a daily paper. Many a time I arm-wrestled with the advertising manager over inappropriate adverts - both in content and design. The bout would often end with me throwing the advert out. The editor was king.
But extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. The odd jagged-edged advert is not the solution, merely a start. If newspapers are to thrive, they need a new approach to advertising, sponsorship and partnerships. They need to look after their clients, provide them with solutions not simply sell them space. They need to be their agents, running their portfolios, assisting them with their marketing campaigns and maintaining their websites. They need to guarantee response. A third way and a different model are crucial. Editors need to sit firmly in the middle of the commercial operation. Radical revenue hunters (and the circulation people) might sit on the news desk looking for opportunities with every story. 
That doesn't mean, of course, that editorial has to capitulate and allow the commercial department to run riot with its clipart and yellow star bursts. Editors need to ensure advertising is creative, well designed, of good taste and  inkeeping with their title's strategy and brand. They need to watch for dodgy juxtapositions. And mostly they need to continue to provide value, protect the credibility of their titles and ensure readers are not duped. They still have the right to throw out unsuitable ads. 
We all know that advertising forecasts for the newspaper industry for 2013 are challenging. But one thing is certain. If all we have to offer our customers is a 'take-it-or leave-it' rectangle in a pre-determined down-page spot, with no guarantee of response, then we will all be heading to the great Press hall in the sky sooner rather than later.   

Monday, 21 January 2013

Good graphic, bad graphic

Here are two topical graphics at different ends of the scale. This one, from Canada's National Post, on the number of gun deaths in the US in the month following Sandy Hook, is excellent. The first rule of graphics is to make the information easy to understand. Even without studying the detail you get an immediate understanding of the scale of the very scary problem.
On the other hand, this one on the USA cycling scandal can only be described as infographic hell. Please only take a look if you have headache tablets to hand. As designer David Bailey  said on my Twitter account it looks like someone stuck their Panini Sticker collection on the London Underground map. He has a point, except that the underground map is easy to follow. This one is just impossible.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The clue is in the masthead

Here's an innovative idea from Cumberland County's Sentinel in America. The paper has responded to readers' requests to carry the New York Times' crossword, seven days a week. Such a coup had to go on the front - so why not flag it up by setting the masthead as a line from a crossword? The execution might have been a bit slicker, but a good idea nonetheless. The full story is on the excellent Charles Apple blog here.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Things you might miss by reading a paper

I have been away from the laptop for a month or so ... and am now playing catch-up. This is one of the more interesting things that I missed. It's a powerful marketing video by Newspaperswork, the marketing platform for Belgian newspapers, to remind advertisers of the compelling nature of the printed word. It's clever, funny - and brings home the point brilliantly. Enjoy.