Part three in our series on small newspaper redesigns.
(So far, we’ve covered deciding the scope of the redesign and whether a consultant is needed in No. 1, and researching content changes, based on reader research and your own professional knowledge in No. 2.)
No matter how good your ideas are and no matter how much useful information you gather from readers, if you don’t have the staff or computer software or press capabilities to carry out your plans, you are no better off than you were before. To state the obvious: you can only do what you can do.
So it is important to assess the state of your personnel, processes, and equipment. Can you afford to make improvements anywhere? This could involve training for current staff, new software packages, new deadlines or production schedule, and so on.
For example, you may decide you would like more information graphics and maps (good idea!). You may need some new software, training for current staff, or new or different staff to pull it off. Or you may decide that you want to upgrade your web site from static HTML to a CMS, such as Drupal or Joomla. Again, you would have to decide which is the best way to go with staff (the software will be free).
Look over your deadline schedule, beginning with when the last ad is accepted. Can it be moved forward – without ticking off too many advertisers – to give the newsroom and production staff a little more time to prepare the final product? Remember: it’s that final product that makes all the difference in ad sales and circulation numbers, so do what you can to optimize its content and presentation.
Finally: equipment. Do you have everything you need to make the improvements you desire? How about cheap digital cameras with video capability for your reporters? Maybe a high-end work station for processing the visual material? What about some improvements in the pre-press or even press operations?
On this last note, by the way, I have found that when I do design consulting, it is critical to talk to the pressroom people. I make sure they understand the total picture and how important it is that they help produce the best possible newspaper. Ultimately, if they don’t get on board and take pride in the final product, much of your other work will be wasted.
This process may bring you back to Step 1, in which you decided the scope of the redesign project and whether to use an outside consultant. That’s fine: it’s an iterative process. You have to find the size project that’s best for you and your paper. Sometimes it’s a big project, and sometimes it’s a touch-up.
Just for fun: Using a free file conversion (its works with lots of formats) website, I created an MP3 file with a pretty good robot reading this post. He makes a few errors, but it’s not bad! So download and be read to while you stir your coffee…. File here. (Right-click to download.)