DISPATCHES FROM THE ASSOCIATION OF ALTERNATIVE NEWSWEEKLIES
One bonus of attending a journalism convention is you get to see a ton of samples of fresh papers in one fell swoop. No reader ever sees newspapers this way, but it gives me a chance to think in fresh ways about why and how we do what we do. Thus begins a series of posts with random observations about alternative weeklies, and newspapers in general, from the convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, this weekend in Toronto.
[TORONTO] Once I got past the exhilaration of seeing tons of great alt-weekly covers in one fell swoop, gathered up several arms full and hauled then off for review, I quickly dove inside and came to this realization:
Contents pages are almost always super boring, ugly, redundant, and uninviting.
Give me a small index, fine, telling me where I can find the movie listings. But in a weekly paper, where we should assume lots of people do a thorough flip-through, does anyone really need or read a summary of each story in the paper?
Especially with a diminished news hole, is this the best way to greet your readers on Page 3 or 4 or 5? When many have already heard your pitch via cover lines … and daily Twitter and Â Facebook shouts … and email blasts? Think of the time and energy required to put it together. Isn’t it best devoted elsewhere?
This was the main thinking behind my recommendation to blow up the contents page at Creative Loafing (Atlanta). Out went the old-school TOC. In came START, a new concept that I likened to arriving at a really cool party and picking snippets of exciting conversation from the air. (And Atlanta had tons of great quotes buried throughout every issue to choose from.) 7 to 10 random, sexy, provocative thoughts from anywhere in the paper – your eye lands on one, you become captivated, and boom, off you go to the drinks table. Included is an advertising innovation called “The Intruder” – for more about that, see my earlier posts about Creative Loafing – as well as a few choice quotes sending readers to the lively conversations at the CL blogs.
The greatest thing since sliced bread? No, but definitely something that created “buzz” in this redesign, and in this market. Maybe they’ll make a little money with it, too. I’ll be talking about START, “buzz,” contents pages, advertising innovations, and more at my AAN presentation today in Toronto. Join me!