News Letter relaunched with new fonts, new templates and perhaps fewer words

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.]

News Letter relaunch 1

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.

News Letter relaunch 7The 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?

News Letter relaunch 4

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).

News Letter relaunch 5

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.

News Letter bylinesThere are some stylistic consistency problems with how article bylines should display the ‘by’ and the name of the journalist.

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.

News Letter relaunch 6Strangely 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.

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  • D.A.

    The website re-design is utter garbage.

  • Hopefully, they will update the server as well. For a while I wasn’t clicking at Newsletter articles on the Newshound site because I had so much trouble actually getting through to the article. In recent months this problem does seem to have been corrected.

  • Framer

    Johnston Press are daft to think the users of the website are in any sense readers. If you look at the voting on the gay marriage question for example, you realise immediately the majority are ‘intruders’ after a free read and quite possibly a laugh at the Protestant bigots.
    Fewer words means fewer readers, as so much of the paper’s news content is otherwise free on the BBC and UTV websites.
    The News Letter can only survive if it concentrates on servicing all and only its niche readers – farmers, bandsmen, bikers, Orange Order members, history buffs, local rugby and football enthusiasts, Unionists and older folk etc.
    If it tries, as it did previously, and may be doing again, to appeal to a ‘wider’ audience or the web world, its readership will dribble away.

  • sherdy

    The undertaker is merely applying a bit of make-up and lipstick to try to improve the appearance of the corpse.
    The paper doesn’t carry enough adverts to pay for one journalist’s wages – do they even employ any, or is 90 per cent of their ‘editorial’ just borrowed from other sources.
    But then its difficult to criticise Johnston Press too much, as they’re being screwed towards bankruptcy by the banks which in previous years threw unlimited cash at them.

  • aquifer

    Looks refreshed, and the structure of headline, boost, and content lends itself to re-use on the internet.

    The next stage could be to really be a News Letter, and deliver personalised news as emails to users.

    It kinda does it for Orange farmers at present, what about Green software developers or Scots Irish Americans?

    If it does not employ journalists should Johnston Press use unemployed journalists willing to sign articles for particular groups?

    One way to create an appetite for professionally produced news could be to deluge particular interest groups with ‘almost news’ until they see the value of the edited stuff that has the Peacock quality mark on.

    If there is no such thing as objectivity, advertorial also has its place.

    A kind of tax on gullibility. This tax base could be quite large.

  • Progressive Unionist

    The front page image looks like a Where’s Wally contest – spot the difference?

  • jthree

    The much reduced story length makes it feel like a Metro free sheet. But as long as they keep doing stories about how the Trouble were 100% started by the Irish government the elderly farmers and retired prisoner officers who read it will be happy enough.

  • JH

    Looks good to me.

    – One title story on the front page instead of two competing

    – Liberated space used to deliver several story intros, wider catchment

    – Dark text on light background everywhere instead of alternating, increased readability

    Only downside I can see it that the masthead is about the only thing distinguishing it from several other papers it shares a rack with.

  • carl marks

    The NL Can modernise it typeface, change the website or make any change it wants but none of these will make the least difference unless it can up the standard of its reporting its not going anywhere.
    After St Pats day it run a storey about the behaviour of some louts at corn market, it turned out the whole thing was based on a anonymous phone call, and wasn’t even checked up on.
    This didn’t stop the news letter printing it as fact,
    This sort of lazy and biased reportage reminds me of the old protestant telegraph or the sort of thing you would expect to see in the rags produced by the BNP.
    So it can try to look like a newspaper but only acting like one will increase its circulation.

  • Framer

    We await the BBC ceasing to strangle the print media with its website news (mostly stolen from them). The new head of BBC News, James Harding, has said the BBC “websites, which may seem like a handy and innocuous extension of its news gathering, have destroyed jobs, livelihoods and creativity.”

  • sbelfastunionist

    Not a fan of this revamp which seemed unnecessary to me. Focusing on content with quality journalism such as that provided by Sam McBride would be my preference.

  • Local hack

    Must take issue here – the revamp is not designed at arresting or indeed improving circulation. It is part of a JP plan to do away with production elements that have taken up too much time from journos diverting them away from creating content.

    The focus now is on growing audience figures through web – paper being so heavily templated will hopefully be able to pick up better advertising, but the plan is to get people on board the brand.

    Still the News Letter – or Newsletter – as they insist on not being able to have one simple style of the actual name of the paper really does need to up its game in terms of actual reportage – I mean look at lead for revamp, lots of PA material and constatnly printing stories from the previous day’s Irish News/Telegraph.

    BTW love the way Carl Marks criticises the NL for running a “storey”- quality !