How to reinstate/reinvent business coverage?

Received this inquiry from an editor at a 60,000-circulation daily:

“Ron – I was looking over your Web site. We are considering reinventing our daily and Sunday business pages and section. We are basically starting from scratch, since we have not put much emphasis on business coverage in the last few years.

“Do you know what newspapers are doing the best business page design that I should like at for ideas? I’m at the beginning stages of researching what other papers are doing. Thanks!”

My response was as follows:

“Nice to hear from you. Good to hear you are reinventing your business coverage. Are you also reaching out to advertisers in a new way, to get on board with your reinvigorated product(s)? I hope so.

“To be honest, so many newspapers seem to have cut back in business coverage that I have few recommendations. Among local papers I just don’t know of much that’s innovative per se. I read The Wall Street Journal, and of course, the main paper has such a unique, national audience, so their approach might not apply; I used to like their ‘Personal Journal’ section but it seems like it’s a watered down version of what it was the first few years after its launch, not as robust or innovative.

“Normally I make suggestions starting with content and then head off in design, but in this case I’ll go in reverse:

“In terms of design: I’d suggest more formats that make it easier to write and produce daily business news. For example, you could have “6 Questions” with a local business person, about their current challenges and opportunities. A profile of a new or changing business, again almost in a Q&A format, that details what it does, how it innovates, what is unique, why people should know about it. A weekly feature of someone looking for work, maybe someone who has just found work, giving survival tips in the unemployment market. And so on.

“In terms of content: Consider the above questions of course. But also, maybe start your coverage with local, consumer-oriented questions: Is now the time to buy a house? Should I get back into the stock market? What saving and spending strategies should I consider NOW, locally? Each of those questions could actually turn into stories, of course. Ask your staff, and your readers, what questions are on their mind — maybe include an interactive feature where people can email you questions, and they become news stories. Otherwise, of course, you are left with typical old-school stories – businesses starting, closing and moving; people being promoted or fired; and so on. And of course, wire coverage, such as what the market did the previous day, and so on. I think it’s good that so many  papers have ditched a lot of that coverage because people concerned with the economy already are getting that info, in real-time, from the web or other digital sources.

“Aside from general newspapers, I have enjoyed reading Crain’s Chicago Business, Advertising Age, and the related publications of the Crain family (based here in Chicago and for whom I have done some work) but perhaps those are so geographically focused that they might not be of much help. In any event here are links to some page designs from those papers, you are welcome to check them out:

Advertising Age: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23508068@N03/sets/72157615163498132/
Crain’s Chicago: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23508068@N03/sets/72157615091764501/

“I often do redesign projects for entire papers or just sections, templating, and training that often targets business section reinvention. Please inquire if that is of any interest; otherwise, stay in touch and let me know how your reinvention goes! And don’t neglect my first question above: the appeal to your advertising community. I hope whatever you create keeps in mind the overall appeal of the newspaper, or section, to advertisers.”

If you have suggestions for small- to medium-sized daily or weekly newspapers that are doing a great job with business coverage, or would like to share off some good work, email me at ron@ronreason.com and I will consider a future posting.

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1 Comment

  1. provocateur1972

     /  February 28, 2010

    Can you tell me, do readers really expect business coverage of any substance in any mainstream newspaper anymore, at least aside from the Times and Journal? Seriously?

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