When competing newspapers get face lifts, they tend to do it all at once. Following a redesign of the Toronto Star and a significant revamp of The Globe And Mail, readers of the National Post will see a different-looking paper in their hands this morning.
The Post has always had the cleanest design of the major broadsheets, with a structure that hearkened back to classic newspaper design: staid serif byline caps and no-nonsense front page headlines like “One woman stabbed, the other hanged” (February 14). The paper has suffered from image problems ever since it was acquired by CanWest in 2000. It was originally established as a national neo-conservative outlet by Conrad Black, who felt that the formerly right-wing Globe And Mail had become too libertarian, and the Post has been battling this legacy ever since, despite its shift in editorial direction toward a more liberal bias. Though refinements have been made, a large number of design elements have remained consistent with the paper’s original 1998 incarnation.
“We continue to signal to the market that this is a different kind of newspaper,” says Editor-in-Chief Douglas Kelly. The change most immediately noticeable in today’s redesign is the placement of the section logos, which have been rotated 90° so they cover half the length, giving a more distinctive look when folded. Recurring design elements have been introduced throughout that indicate peripheral information, like story backgrounders or bullets, and the Toronto and Vancouver markets will see an easier-to-handle sheet size—an industry trend based on reader habits and press technology. The Post told us that the redesign process has taken more than three months.
Speaking of press technology, our copy was a bit of a mess in the front section, with really faded ink and dark-looking newsprint, though the subsequent sections looked fine (other copies around the neighbourhood stores this morning looked similar). We’ll chalk that up to growing pains while they adjust to the new size.
Typeography nerds take note! Fonts are larger and with more leading (spacing) between the lines, according to the Post, and the typefaces used in charts and sideboards are cleaner and easier to read. The average Joe may not notice a change in typeface, but designers agonize over things like this. It also seems like the format employs more vertically-oriented content, with messy elements like the UPC code and index bullets shuttled into the sidebar. Otherwise, not much has changed at first glance, design-wise, and that’s probably a good thing—the paper says they have earned almost double the design awards of any other English-language Canadian broadsheet.
What we find interesting, however, is a new focus on web content. The National Post recently launched their Posted blogs, which are focused more on commentary and local miscellanea. Most sections of the Post redesign will feature blog/online material and commentary on their second page sourced from their website. In today’s paper, this was only really evident in the financial section, however.
Blogs like Wonkette and The Huffington Post have changed the way that many people get their news, especially as it pertains to interactive commentary, and it’s taken the mainstream print media a long time to acknowledge they exist. How widely the National Post will be repurposing this content remains to be seen, but it’s important since online information sources and free commuter dailies have been credited, in large part, to the industry-wide decline in newspaper circulation.
The redesign brings some more change to the Post‘s entertainment and lifestyle content. The National Post has historically followed a confusing path when it comes to stories that aren’t particularly newsy or that don’t involve financial figures. In 2001, the late Izzy Asper nixed the already sparse entertainment and sports sections, cementing its stuffy rep, delighting the sports-heavy Sun papers, and causing the Post‘s circulation to plummet. In recent years, these sections have returned, and the Post claims the momentum will continue. Hence the continued employment of the diminutive Shinan Govani and his loose lips. New columnists will also appear, including controversial pundit and crusty atheist Christopher Hitchens, the Washington Post‘s Anne Applebaum, and This American Life‘s Jonathan Goldstein.
And, of course, there will be continued focus on the Financial Post and investing pages, which is the National Post‘s bread and butter, but which we find more useful as an insomnia treatment. But, yeah, we get it.
Top photo by Marc Lostracco; other images courtesy of the National Post.