When was the last time you saw a Millennial, a person aged 18-24, sipping coffee at a café and reading a real, tangible newspaper? According to a recent Pew State of the News media study, 23% of people aged 18-24 read print newspaper. The New York Times reports that 10% of its print subscribers are within the similar age range, almost at par with its cohorts of the digital subscribers. The data compiled by GfK MRI Doublebase shows that almost 52% are reading a newspaper between one to 14 times a month.
As much as I miss newsprint ink on my fingers, I admit I haven’t read a physical newspaper as religiously as I used to, but when I do pick up the New York Times from the local newsstand for a quick glance on the subway, I find myself looking down to check my hands. As my journalism professor, Dr. Terry Clark, used to say, “I love the smell of newsprint in the morning.”
Looking around, gone are the days when reading the news meant picking up the half-soaked newspaper from the front porch to catch the 72-point, all too important, headline. Nowadays, all it takes is a couple of clicks on your computer or Smartphone, and voila! However, as the evidence shows, while we may prefer the convenience of our digital devices, most Millennials ARE reading and turning that page. And that is a refreshing thought.
Most newspapers now offer both print and online versions of their editions. However, how is this transition affecting the daily process and workings of a publication? According to Jack Shafer, former Slate editor and now Reuters columnist, the big draw to online editions is the savings of almost $600 in subscription costs. However, does it parallel in retention power? This is where we delve into how graphic design news works its way into a reader’s subconscious.
According to a study presented at the meeting for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the facts presented in the paper, Medium Matters: Newsreaders’ Recall and Engagement With Online and Print Newspapers by Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone, and Yoon Cho of the University of Oregon, print readers remember more stories than online readers. Researchers have cited that the online design, which includes pop up ads and surveys, and additional clicks to get to the next page, may affect the reading experience.
So, does this design shift in conveying news alter the way print newspapers present their news? The Northumberland Gazette relaunched its paper from broadsheet to compact, further supporting the fact that improvements are made to both mediums to reduce the gap in functionality and readability.
The bottom line is there is no way to customize the vast flexibility of the web to the traditional periodical, even for the reader’s convenience. But in content, the Inverted Pyramid is still employed—as Dr. Clark compares it to a date, lead with the exciting and flirty look across the room, then the “getting to know the facts,” and finally the “goodnight kiss” to wrap it up. Newspapers also have to adapt to fundamental design principles that can be used in both mediums: white space, grid-based design, among others. The results may be quite similar but they function differently. White space in a newspaper is an ally. It clears the clutter, creates a more two-dimensional affect and focuses on the main element. Websites can mimic this design but with less effect. Ads and surveys usually frame the content, proving to be distracting and could easily lose the readers’ interest.
The news grid on a newspaper allows its readers to follow the text based on its significance; headlines, font size and format are all integrated into presenting the value of each story. Readers tend to scan the top left then down and finally the bottom corner. Websites, however, are limited to web-based fonts only and the grid-base columns restricts the spatial and placement of design elements on a page.
While interactive and digital newspapers are booming in popularity, most newspapers are adapting the digital flip-book version, which is converting the print PDF to a Flash-based online edition. Newspapers can distribute these to their subscribers via email and include links to advertisers and websites. Content will be more controlled and harder to plagiarize.
The other extreme is to ditch the print version, cutting cost in every way possible, and convert solely to an online publication. It is reader-friendly and cost-effective, but also very prone to content theft.
Of course, the hybrid approach would be the best solution, offering the readers the best of both worlds. The trick is to integrate the design across both mediums to show a cohesive format. Typography, image quality and sizing are all factors that change in this transition. Web-based fonts are limiting, and hi-res CMYK images are compressed to 72-dpi RGB.
I was editor-in-chief of my alma mater’s newspaper, The Vista, where I fondly remember late nights, getting the issue to bed, saving the files to a bulky SyQuest and running it to the Print Shop to make the deadline.
Almost 12 years later, the University of Central Oklahoma newspaper has gone from one-color to full four-color, compact to broadsheet and online. Presented in both print and flip-book, The Vista is part of the campus’ UCO360 media network, and offers readers to access content-based archives at their fingertips. Also present is the convenience of social networking where readers can follow updates via Twitter and Facebook.
With all this said, the joy of the reading experience is the satisfaction of knowing you’re receiving and reading the news at your pleasure. The New York Times began imposing monthly fees on its online readers for unlimited access to its stories. More newspaper may follow suit, like the Los Angeles Times. For die-hard readers like me, this may revert us back to the good ol’ days of print on my fingers.