Edmonton Journal

A daily newspaper can be a great source of comfort to its faithful readers - a familiar fixture in their hectic lives. But familiarity can also breed contempt. These are the twin truths that confront any newspaper planning a redesign. 'It's...

A daily newspaper can be a great source of comfort to its faithful readers – a familiar fixture in their hectic lives. But familiarity can also breed contempt.

These are the twin truths that confront any newspaper planning a redesign.

‘It’s always risky to make changes to a paper,’ says Linda Hughes, publisher of The Edmonton Journal. ‘People don’t like change.’

Sometimes, however, change is necessary. Certainly that’s the conclusion Hughes and her colleagues reached when they began contemplating an overhaul last year.

The Journal’s previous face-lift had been a full decade earlier, in 1989. The need for a change then had been fairly obvious. ‘The paper was just unattractive,’ says Hughes, a Journal editor at the time.

The Southam-owned broadsheet had an outdated nameplate, old-fashioned fonts and not nearly enough art or local news, she recalls. ‘It was a mess.’

This time around, however, the need for change wasn’t so readily apparent. Reader polls, in fact, showed little dissatisfaction with the product.

There was, of course, the small matter of heightened competition. True, the Journal was successfully holding its own against The Edmonton Sun, a scrappy Sun Media-owned tabloid (NADbank figures show 335,000-plus weekday Journal readers, versus 191,000 Sun readers). But the National Post’s arrival had changed the whole newspaper playing field – just as it had in the country’s other major English-speaking markets.

Still, Hughes says the decision to revamp had far less to do with the launch of the Post than with timing. Simply put, 10 years is a long time to stick with the same design – probably too long. ‘We had a sense that it was time for renewal,’ she says. (There was promotional value, too, in the fact that the changes would come just prior to the dawn of a new century.)

‘Intuitively, we just knew it was time,’ affirms Pat Hutchison, the paper’s vice-president of marketing.

The Journal faced the same dilemma that confronts every other daily in the country: More and more people simply have no time to read. Somehow, the paper had to make itself more appealing to these individuals, without turning off the loyal readers who’d stuck with it for years.

The first step was assigning an in-house committee to develop ideas for improvement, Hutchison says.

These discussions pointed to the need for more modern and eye-catching graphics. Placement, size and colour of photographs and other graphics also emerged as important issues. ‘It’s a more graphics-oriented audience today,’ she says.

In addition to bumping up the use of colour, running larger photos and placing graphics more prominently, the Journal has adopted the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Page A2, for example, is now devoted almost exclusively to photos from around the world, each telling its own story.

Significant content improvements have also been made. For example, the various ‘lifestyle’ sections that used to run on specific days of the week – such as fashion, food, parenting and health – have now been folded into an overall ‘Living’ section, to allow for greater editorial flexibility.

While the front page of ‘Living’ is still generally devoted to a single topic, depending on the day of the week (Food on Wednesdays, for instance), no longer is the entire section given over to the subject. ‘This allows us more freedom,’ Hutchison says.

The Journal has also added a Sunday Reader section, with more magazine-style feature articles and heavy use of graphics and photographs. And it has renewed its commitment to its major areas of strength – local news and entertainment – by expanding the City section and increasing its frequency to seven days a week. (That’s more or less the same strategy that The Toronto Star adopted in its own market just prior to the birth of the National Post.)

To promote its new, improved product, the Journal hired Edmonton-based agency Calder Bateman.

‘It was a big challenge, because we didn’t want to rock the boat with current readers,’ says Ernie Pasemko, a partner with Calder Bateman.

Advertising for the new-look Journal appeared in television, radio and outdoor, he says. The campaign tagline, ‘The new face of Edmonton,’ reinforced the paper’s status as the source for local content.

Pasemko says the agency also created several events on the launch day to raise awareness with key audiences, including advertisers.

The Journal’s makeover is a positive development, says Robyn Ferry, media manager with Edmonton-based Mediactive. There’s no sign, however, that it has prompted a sudden rush of new advertisers. ‘It hasn’t had an effect on rates or advertising in general,’ she says.

What it has done, according to Ferry, is generate some excitement around the paper – which, in turn, should help promote an increase in circulation numbers.

The Journal’s renewed emphasis on local news is also a smart move that should increase its appeal to regional advertisers, Ferry adds.

Still, she says, clients pay more attention in the end to things like NADbank figures than to newspaper redesigns. WC

Also in this report:

- Launch of Post good news for advertisers: Upstart daily has jump-started the industry, prompting offers of better rates, bonus ads and new loyalty programs p.NP3

- Stop the presses: Dailies are changing: No longer acting as simple order-takers p.NP4

- Picture perfect: It’s obvious that visually driven creative works well in newspaper. So why don’t more advertisers use it? NP5

- Telcos reward readers with a laugh: MTT and Bell Mobility employ unusual formats to nab attention p.NP6

- Savingumoney.com builds awareness offline: Coupon portal uses newspapers as linchpin of media strategy p.NP7

- Cadillac takes the long view: Used frequency of newspaper creatively by telling a different story every week p.NP10

- Whistler taps fast turnaround times: Newspaper lets ski resort react quickly to changing circumstances p.NP13

- Talvest co-brands funds with FP Index: Helped Montreal financial services provider to crack Ontario market p.NP14

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.