By: Nu Yang
When the Shreveport (La.) Times decided to raise their newspaper prices this year, leaders there knew they had to show customers it was going to be worth it. In March, the daily paper launched a redesign of its print publication along with new features, such as a standalone art, culture and entertainment (ACE) section; a new section Friday preview section called Lagniappe; and an expanded and new Sunday section called Outlook.
Before they did any of that though, the paper conducted field interviews with community members, but it wasn’t asking the average focus group questions normally associated with a local paper’s redesign project. Executive editor and general manager Alan English said these personal interviews focused on how community members lived their lives and used the paper.
English said the interviews revealed several key points: the paper’s audience was filled with community influentials focused on family and passionate about topics like Louisiana arts and culture, education, food and economic development.
As a Gannett paper, the Des Moines Design Studio was responsible for the Times’ redesign. Nathan Groepper, creative director of the Gannett Design Studio in Iowa, told blogger Charles Apple the newly-redesigned Times featured a new front page, bright new section flags and a big T in each section as a branding device throughout the paper. In addition, new fonts and spacing was given to the pages for a cleaner and more organized appearance.
English said feedback has been good from readers so far, even with the increased prices to home subscriptions and single-copy sales in effect.
“This redesign was about improving the overall experience and value for readers at a time when we were going to ask them to pay more. We are seeing success in sales and on several front with these changes,” he said.
Times distribution director Kevin Welsh said, “(Regarding single-copies) we’re 11 weeks past the pricing action, and it is now conclusive that we are holding incremental losses at 3.5 percent daily and 4.1 percent Sunday year over year. On home delivery, we are performing above expectations in a price change, and it is on a different timeline.”
Advertisers are also on board with the new Times. English said, “We’ve seen an increase with our advertisers in tourism, entertainment, dining and casinos in response to our new ACE section.” The section is published every Thursday and boasts 16 to 20 pages.
English also announced the paper’s $2.2 million investment in press upgrades which include new parts that will help deliver a smoother printing process and get the paper out the door more quickly and on time.
“We’re in the position to add more in the next year,” he said. “As results come in, we’ll organize our plans to execute and plan more phases and enhancements in print and in digital.