A new look News Letter hit the news-stands on Monday morning. All Johnston Press titles have been going through a process of refresh, and this week it is the turn of the two hundred and seventy six year old paper. The News Letter website will undergo its revamp today. [In the images below, last Wednesday’s News Letter is shown on the left; and Monday’s relaunched paper on the right.]
The familiar masthead and the sign of the peacock remain on the front cover, along with prominent mentions of the newspaper website address and it’s Twitter and Facebook details. A column of boosts now trails three stories on the inside pages, trying to catch the attention of buyers with a range of the paper’s strongest content.
While the new page templates certainly modernise the look of the News Letter, the paper has kept an overall serious style and avoided the brash use of coloured headlines and coloured bars that dominate some of its English sister titles. Sticking to predefined page templates will now force articles to fit the space rather than allowing the layout to be fluid to suit the size of the news.
The old absurdity of having two page numbers at the top of each page has finally been eliminated in the refresh. There’s a welcome diversity of fonts used for story headlines across a page. Oddly every article of substance now has two headlines with a small tag line added above the story’s main headline: extra headline = less room for the body of the story?
Morning View still lives on the Letters Page, though it looks less like a earnest leader column now that it is stretched over two columns at the top half of the page. Two obligatory Tweets of the Day have joined the letters, all three of which on Monday came from politicians (or political candidates).
Monday’s paper had an over-abundance of reader offers and competitions, stopping just short of giving away a loaf of bread like Monday’s Belfast Telegraph.
Over the past few years, colour pictures have become ever more popular and ever larger in newspapers. The relaunched News Letter is no different with photographs increasingly replacing words.
While the extra white space around stories definitely makes the paper a calmer read, it also has taken its toll on the word count. The trend towards shorter articles – to match readers’ shrinking concentration spans as well as contracting newsroom staff – is obvious.
Strangely two stories about distasteful merchandise being sold at Sinn Fein’s ard fheis appeared on two different pages: one highlighting the “I still hate Thatcher” t-shirts, the other mentioning the “Sniper at work” badges.
Johnston Press will no doubt hope that the spring clean of the News Letter’s layout will arrest its slipping circulation. However, it’ll take lots of compelling content coupled with its more attractive appearance for the oldest English daily newspaper (still in production) in the world to keep taking 80p from readers each morning. And revenue from tablet editions may be slow to grow.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about, reports from, live-tweets and live-streams civic, academic and political events and conferences. He delivers social media training/coaching; produces podcasts and radio programmes; is a FactCheckNI director; a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland; and a member of the Corrymeela Community.