Chron Redesign: It's a Brave New Font-tier

Categories: Local News, Media

New. Improved?

The San Francisco Chronicle debuted its much-touted redesign on Sunday, with additional changes appearing in today's paper. Modifications include a new, softer headline font and stories divided by three horizontal lines instead of one. In a time when most publications are cutting back, the Chron is giving you more -- more lines. The new layout smacks of magazine design, and the additions to the Sunday paper had a distinctly "newsish" feel. Short, bite-sized lists of things to buy and do coupled with quick Q&As that would be at home in a Martha Stewart publication.

Monday's paper sported a "Top Of the News" addition at, unsurprisingly, the top of the front page. (Note to whoever spearheaded this overhaul: Consider using the kickier, more conversational "Top o' the Page to Ya!" I know I will.) The Top of the News acts as a quick glance guide to what readers will find inside.

As Ward Bushee's somber Sunday editor's note points out: "...The Chronicle is losing large sums of money each week and has been for some time."

Nary a sugar coat to be shed here. The paper's redesign efforts are part of a headlong rush in the newspaper industry to reinvent the medium for a lagging readership. The week's popular real estate blogs are repurposed as print articles in the Sunday business section, and things will be more colorful and easier to find. The Chron, like other papers, is ready to incorporate new media into its print pages, but quick to trumpet its own importance: "Throughout its history, the Chronicle has been a powerful deterrent to would-be corruption by elected and appointed officials. It is true that we live in a world of digital media, where "citizen journalists" and bloggers have an increasingly visible presence, but even in the digital age, where would San Francisco be without this newspaper?" If the paper's new face fails to excite advertisers, it's a question the city may find out the answer to.

[Ed.: Is the Chron's redesign an effort to make Wheatina sexy for the kids? The quick-hit, McNews items for the short-attention-span crowd Andy described are there, but other elements -- green paper for the Sporting Green, which people were nostalgic about back when Barry Bonds was bony -- smack of pandering to the Where-Were-You-When-JFK-Was-Shot?-set. All-told, this redesign was a fairly modest change. Will it draw in new readers while appeasing the older folks who are already reading? And will it do so if the paper begins to charge more for its redesigned edition? (Bushee's woe-is-me statement is likely a prelude to a price increase. We know the drill. We watch PBS pledge week). Best of luck to the Chronicle. But, to our knowledge, no team ever improved merely from changing its uniforms.]
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