Newspapers Might Start to Shrink, Literally

Newspapers are losing money, so perhaps it’s time for companies to start rethinking the design of the paper itself? Poynter has a report today about the “three-around” newspaper design, and whether we can expect papers to begin to adopt the look. The three-around design is narrower and shorter than a typical paper, slightly taller than a tabloid, and still preserves the multiple section of the papers we read today.

Why would a newspaper adopt the new look? Poynter lists a few reasons:

  • Since the pages are a third smaller, it will yield substantial newsprint savings. The three-around also produces 50 percent more copies per hour, allowing some reduction in pressroom work force and possibly fewer presses.
  • After years of trimming the size of the physical paper, many American papers are awkwardly narrow and cannot go further with the web width of existing press configuration. Hence the potential appeal of getting much smaller (and more gracefully proportioned) in a single step.
  • With the drain of advertising, especially during the early days of the week, many newspapers now have a heft problem — or in some cases run bigger-than-necessary sections padded with house ads.

It all sounds great, but no newspaper has adopted the new look yet, so there must something wrong. Let’s place the blame in two places: The stubborness of Americans and money.

You know how CFL light bulbs have existed for years – and even though they last much longer, use less energy and are ultimately more cost efficient, people still use regular light bulbs? That’s because Americans hate change. Same thing with the three-around newspaper. Companies are afraid to switch to it because they think people won’t like the new look and advertisers will stay away.

Which leads us to the second problem with three-arounds: If a company wants to start using the new design, it would have to install a new printing press system. We’ve never looked into how much it costs to install a printing press, but we’re guessing that’s a lot of money that newspapers simply don’t have.

Poynter  guesses that newspapers will eventually adopt the new look, but we disagree. The cons massively outweigh the pros, especially when one of the cons involves the almighty dollar. Newspapers are going to want to hold onto those, no matter how few of them they might have.