How often should a publication's layout be changed?

Lehman Brothers’ collapse didn’t only triggered a sharp decline in newspapers and magazines’ circulation and revenues, but also a repositioning of editors towards their products: a more careful look and more openness to experimentation. But what are the costs of redesigning a magazine and how often is too often to change the image of a publication?

Mario Garcia: To experiment - a do or die situation

Mario Garcia, the one who throughout 30 years of working as web and print designer has collaborated with over 450 news organizations, says the financial crisis had a positive impact on print industry as well: for the first time, many traditional editors are no longer introspective and into their worlds, they are now more open to experiment new solutions.

Editors now look at their product more carefully, they are more open to experimentation. They are saying: we must try new solutions to reach new readers who are more difficult to get. Crisis and opportunity for self evaluation go hand in hand. It is a win-win situation”, Mario Garcia (photo) told Wall-Street.

In the first year of global crisis, the print industry was marked by shock, across-the-board layoff, and buyouts, same as all the other markets. “It is a very traumatic period. We’ve seen ad revenues plummeting same as newspapers’ circulation. But it is a good time to reassess what we do and how we do it”.

What was the first sign of recession in print industry? Mario Garcia cites the reduction of pages, of ad space and number of designers. “All these measures had an effect on design. One had to design for less space and with fewer resources”, said Garcia.

As an aftereffect, many free newspapers have gone out of business, while others look at how they can revitalize themselves for a different market. “I see the biggest change here, in the free newspapers. More are paying attention to the internet, to blogs to social networking sites, such as Facebook and getting ideas and hints from there. Before the crisis, this was not happening as much”.

Design changes to a newspaper should be a constant evolution rather than a revolution one day, as Garcia said.

“The layout of a newspaper should be changed as often as the audience for which it is intended no longer pays attention. Due to the lack of financial resources, fewer newspapers have abandoned their plans to change layout. Now the tide is turning, many newspapers are coming back to look at their layouts”, said Mario Garcia.

Given the falling ad revenues, newspapers have shifted focus so as to sell more advertising packages across the platforms - print, online, digital and brand extensions: sell books, CDs or other items. “Be inventive, Garcia says. A great layout wouldn’t support a poor content, same as a plastic surgery cannot cure a cancer patient. Pay attention to advertising across the platforms, to mobile editions”, said Garcia.

The most recent project he has been involved in was the redesigning of financial daily Wirtshaft Blatt of Austria. The newspaper enjoyed good reception to print and good marketing campaign aimed at bringing online users to subscriptions of the paper.

In his view, the print industry is already seeing some recovery signs, but a solid recovery may set in no sooner than mid 2010.

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