MAKING THE TOUGH CHOICES: Deciding between profit and design and function.

Author:Simpkins, Jerry

It's no surprise to any of us that circulation of our daily papers is being challenged daily. While I personally feel things are bottoming out and the freefall is slowing, we continue with a downward trend. I feel we're zeroing in on a stable core group of subscribers and there is light on the horizon. We need to continue to be diligent regarding expenses and produce products that not only continue to please our core readers, but also boost single copy sales.

Let's face it, for the most part we continue to produce a quality product that readers and advertisers see value in and are willing to pay for as a result. In many areas we provide local community coverage, in-depth coverage, features and targeted special sections that many of our digital competitors can't hold a candle to.

So let's take a look into how we can maintain and/or continue that advantage without overextending our budgets.

Newsstand Appeal/Front Page News

It seems like for the last 20 years, I've heard publishers and circulation executives touting the necessity of photos above the fold. I wholly agree with the concept of a powerful bold headline and strong vibrant photos to provide eye appeal to single copy buyers. If you're going to sell your goods, you need to market them and draw in readers, and that is exactly what a strong presence in the rack can do.

Can this approach help our news-stand sales? Absolutely. But I see many papers straying from this simple concept and I'm just not quite sure where things got off track. Take a look at five daily papers on the rack and I'll wager that two or three of them have what I call a "split photo" on the front page: a photo folding over the front page and half or more hiding below the fold. That's not very appealing.

Many of us have added skyboxes to our front pages to grab reader's attention--and it works. But when you add skyboxes to a sometimes oversized masthead, that combination can take up over a third of the front page, allowing a much smaller area (vertically) for a bold headline and photo above the fold.

In the small space that remains, we cram a headline, which leaves about 2 inches of vertical space for a photo. We then place a large and attention-grabbing photo under the headline and split it over the fold, showing 2 inches of the photo above the fold.

This is a long explanation on how we've strayed from the "pop" of front page photos above the fold, and I believe mis-marketed our products on newsstands.

So what's the...

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