The Times redesign: And the reason for this was?

Reasons to have a redesign (tick where appropriate):

•Full colour availability on new presses

•Competitors are showing more innovation

• You are a new editor and want to show who’s boss. James Harding, six months into hot-seat at The Times, can tick all the boxes, but how did he do?

Page One

Still not much room for maneuver. Same colour puff across the top – albeit in skinny serif rather than chunky sans – and In The News write-offs at the right side.

Put those with the monster masthead and space on the page one playground is down to less than the size of an A4 piece of paper. No wonder it looks a bit samey. First sighting of the long, long headlines that we’ll come to know and maybe love. The cute weather graphic, under the masthead and left, is meaningless given the huge variety of weather conditions in Britain.

That Page Two

The leading articles, as The Times likes to call them, are boldly moved to page 2. ‘We have done so in the belief that a modern newspaper is about information and the ideas that make sense of it,’said the leading article about the leading articles (keep up, please) in Monday’s relaunch edition. Cue wailing and gnashing from readers and online show-offs, but what’s not to like? Page 2 is traditionally a tricky graveyard for contents, puffs, flannel panels and the like, so putting it to good use makes sound sense.

Page furniture

There’s no missing what’s on the page, thanks to the new colour-coded identifiers at the top (blue for news, red for opinion, green for sport et cetera). There’s also room in this new device for x-refs to the rest of the paper, an invitation that is taken up on miserably few occasions. A raft of photo-bylines – do we need to know what the environment reporter looks like? – and lots of tint boxes with (useless) information. Gone are the subdecks with the arrow things and the big pull quotes. I miss them already…

Page design

There’s no getting away from those small, wordy headlines: ‘Fewer state school students go to elite universities despite costly campaigns’ is an example. In old money, it has a character count of two lines of 32, and at 11 words is always going to struggle to get across the message quickly and cleverly. It will be interesting to see how quickly the ‘rules’are broken and proper newspaper headlines arrive, rather than the safe, boring, US-style of information-overload heads currently on display.

Picture use is eclectic. Some pages have none while others go to town with more than half the page devoted to a poor-quality image. There’s a heavy reliance on agency pix, which by definition everybody else has and are to date more in-flight magazine than cutting-edge newspaper.

It’s great to see the return of the info-graphic. Whether it’s a simple map of coastal erosion or a graphic representation of offshore resources there is always room for this child of the Eighties who has now left the troubled teenage years behind.

Opinion

The five Opinion pages look sadly naked without the leaders but zip along thanks to the readers’ letters. The Daily Universal Register will not only bring groaning from those journalists who have to put it together but also from readers who’d like more of the scrunched-up nature notes and birthdays and less of the world’s longest rivers, dream homes, days out et cetera.

And this new page, named after the original title of the paper, is not to be confused with Register – otherwise known as obits – which appears later.

Times2

More pages, more puzzles, more meaningless features and more confusion. The now 32-page second section has not fared well. It’s lost its tight, diverse, challenging attitude and become what a letter writer called a ‘wallowing wildebeest”.

Pictures are used huge to fill the space, ‘the editor’s cut’on page 3 is neither fun nor informative, and ‘send us your views’is a great idea poorly executed. Put that with TV pages that are now even more difficult to find (hidden behind puzzles and ‘Young times’) and it’s difficult to see what improvements have been made.

And did I really need two pages of ‘How to eat an orange’, complete with peeling graphics and a huge library picture of, er, oranges?

Overall

Why bother?

http://alan-geere.com

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