Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Prototypes: How Four Newspapers Tried to Reach "At Risk" and "Potential" Readers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The Prototypes: How Four Newspapers Tried to Reach "At Risk" and "Potential" Readers

Article excerpt

The prototypes How four newspapers tried to reach "at risk" and "potential" readers

Here is a look at the prototypes and how they fared:

* The Register in Santa Ana, Calif., tried to reach "at risk" readers with a metro section.

Slugs identified stories by subject, such as social issues, the environment, health and today's focus. One cover story told in color cartoon strip format how Christmas trees are recycled. The cover included an offbeat story on ants, a story on infertility accompanied by a phone number for readers to call to get information by fax, and an index listing stories by subject and advertisers by product.

Inside, the police beat was a map indicating where crimes took place and brief descriptions. Stories included bold-faced references to related items appearing elsewhere. One story told parents how to explain the Persian Gulf war to their kids. A local government roundup consisted of a graphic showing how council members voted on issues. Only one story jumped from the section front.

By a 6-1 margin, the focus group of at risk readers liked the new design, and loyal and "potential" readers liked it by a 3-1 margin, said Register editor N. Christian Anderson.

The Register, which has shown a readiness to reorganize itself to reflect readers' changing lifestyles, said it has begun to incorporate elements from the prototype into its metro section.

* The Sacramento Bee designed a metro section to reach "potential" readers. Stories provided depth and explanation on expansive issues.

Top cover stories, accompanied by graphics, dealt with the state's drug war and the effects of mining on the West. A graphic promoted a phone-in reader pool. Breaking stories covered an anti-smoking law, an ambulance squad's financial problems, and free spending by state regulators.

Inside pages were labeled columnists, parenting, science and health, obituaries, transportation and technology, Capitol news. The morning report page included boxed items on commuting, events around town, and the last reader poll.

Research showed it worked, with all three groups preferring the new metro section to the old one because it was better organized and more fun, said Bee executive editor Greg Favre, who was considering whether to adopt the ideas.

* The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader created a women's section to reach at risk women readers. It started from scratch, asking women, not editors, what they wanted, and ended up with You (subtitled News for Today's Women), a 12-page tabloid with color on every page.

Stories are short. They focus on useful information and do not jump. You includes, on Page 2, an index of stories and advertisers; a Your Turn page featuring a profile of a local woman and letters; a page of shopping tips; two Parents and Children pages include things to do and day care centers; two food pages; and a Survival Guide page includes product recalls, weather precautions, pets tips, and child care information.

Editor Tim Kelly said the weak economy had put a damper on plans to start such a section, which would require up two extra staffers, but the Herald-Leader did assign a reporter to cover parenting.

* The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison created a new feature section aimed at potential readers. It got Rumpus, a lively 12-page tabloid organized by age of readers - 5 to 9, 10 to 14, 15 to 18, and parents. …

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