Revolution at the Strib?

Revolution at the Strib?

The Star Tribune's continuing quest to be all things to all people--or at least more things to more people in Maple Grove--will soon result in a redesign, according to reader representative Kate Parry's latest column. The change afoot is based on research done by a journalism think tank at Northwestern University: 

This is not a whim or a guess at what readers want. It's driven by conversations with readers, years of newspaper experience and research. It's critical for newspapers to figure out the reasons behind a decades-long circulation slump and reverse it. Although this newspaper's circulation generally has been steady or grown slightly for six years, there are concerns that women and young readers are picking up the paper less frequently than other groups.

The mix, Parry continues, has to satisfy "longtime readers and also lure younger readers distracted by the Internet or women pressed for time."

The ideal Star Tribune front page includes two strong news stories -- preferably one local and one national. The other three spots are for content in the "interesting" category. On last Wednesday's front page, that meant a story on blogs, a touching column on an elderly couple, and what we call "refers" to stories inside about research on King Tut's mummy. Two hard news stories were at the top of the page (nothing confuses traditional readers more than the days when those "interesting" stories land at the top of page one instead of the "important" stories).

Nick Coleman's piece on a married couple who died within 19 hours of each other was indeed touching. But the research she refers to doesn't offer a formula for replicating the magic of the yarn. Calling for "Revolution, not Evolution," the report describes "an experience-driven newspaper" (readers' experiences, in case you were wondering), which is "about purposefully playing to feelings and values that readers really care about and that your newspaper could really deliver."
Just think of the lifelong attachment you could build with younger readers if they came away from your news, advertising and marketing messages feeling smarter. Or equipped with something they just had to talk about with their friends. Or impressed with how the newspaper had looked out for their interests.
That's experience, and you can do a lot to make it happen.  

Polishing the current product won't do the trick, and the revolution won't happen without a change in culture, the report warns, noting that the majority of papers surveyed by researchers "are characterized by defensive cultures, where risk-taking is not encouraged and cross-departmental collaboration is infrequent."

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