newspaper design
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newspaper redesign
classified redesign

The next big thing will be in Bakersfield, California

You may not like it, but at least they're trying

By Alan Jacobson, Brass Tacks Design

This is risky.

We're offering a sneak peek at the next big thing. No, it's not another broadsheet-to-tab conversion. This is a content-driven redesign.

What you see here are prototype pages from the redesign of The Bakersfield Californian. As of this moment in July, it hasn't been launched - it hasn't even been tested. But if testing goes well, the design will launch on September 26, 2005. Are all the details worked out yet?


Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't. But what do we have to lose? That's right – readership and revenue. So our enthusiasm is tempered by what's at stake.

But everyone who's seen it so far says the exact same thing: “Wow!”

Tim Harrower wants to know whether they have LSD in the Bakersfield water supply.

I dunno. Never touch the stuff. But here's where we started:

The goal: Increase readership

The strategy: Align presentation, content and story selection with the wants and needs of our target audience. These at-risk readers are time-starved, 25-45, working class or middle class and politically conservative.

The tactics
  • Transform the front page from dull to dramatic, with more compelling content selection (stories & photos), presentation, headline writing, use of color and typography, and more emphasis on local news.

  • Introduce new story forms to meet the needs of time-starved readers, with heavy emphasis on “short form.”

  • Implement a workflow in the newsroom that will foster a culture of collaboration in the newsroom, instead of the traditional assembly-line model. Such a workflow would make everyone feel responsible for the quality of all content, not merely the portion represented by their discipline.
Will we succeed? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, you be the judge.

Alan Jacobson can be reached at

Read the prescription for the newspaper industry forumlated by Alan Jacobson and Mary Nesbitt of The Readership Institute.

Read the story that sparked the debate between The Readership Insititute and Brass Tacks Design.

Read the follow-up Q&A between Alan Jacobson and the Society of News Design's Web editor, Rich Boudet.