FAIRFAX Media employed ‘neuro’ testing which measured brain activity in consumers when developing the compact versions of its The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age which will be converted from broadsheets on March 4.
It was the first time Neuro Insight technology was employed by a newspaper, according to the publisher. Eye tracking testing saw a 22 percent increase in reader engagement compared to the broadsheet and a 50 percent increase in visual attention to advertising.
As a result, “we’re sure it’s going to go down really well with consumers,” Fairfax Metro Media commercial director Ed Harrison told a media briefing this morning.
It’s a change from newspapers’ yesteryears when decisions were made “by gut” according to editorial director Garry Linnell.
“The most constructive aspect was having discipline attached to our decision making,” Mr Linnell said.
The new design is more “user friendly” with sharper design and the body copy is 10 percent bigger.
There will also be two new NIMs – a new wellbeing section Pulse and a new entertainment section The Shortlist.
The website homepages of smh.com.au and theage.com.au will also have a redesign to be revealed on Sunday March 3. The new homepages are “cleaner” with more white space and less links.
“There’s something to be said for less is more,” chief product officer Sigrid Kirk said.
The homepages will also offer greater personalisation and more inclusion of what other readers are sharing or talking about on the website. Redesigns of other sections of the websites will follow.
When testing the compact the response from readers was: “what took you so long?”.
Mr Linnell said it was paramount to maintain the mastheads’ editorial tone and quality content and not become a redtop tabloid.
“There’s a reason we’re not using the ‘T’ word … we’re making a commitment to readers that our journalism isn’t changing,” Mr Linnell said.
There will be the same number of stories in the daily paper although they will be shorter. The newsrooms are currently running training courses for their journalists on how to write for the compact. Mr Linnell suggested the compact relaunch will also allow Fairfax journalists to reintroduce serial articles delivered over a number of days.
Advertisers will pay the same rates for space as they did with the broadsheet with the publisher saying the same audience is being purchased despite the format shift.
The rates card has been streamlined from 196 to 14 options although there will still be room for creative alternatives.
Mr Linnell said he expected a circulation increase on launch day similar to what the New Zealand Herald experienced when relaunching as a compact last September – circulation increases of 30 percent on launch day levelling out to 10 percent that week and a consistent two to five percent.
Mr Harrison reiterated that the company’s strategy is not based around circulation.
The compact relaunch demonstrates Fairfax’s commitment to print according to the publisher.
“I wouldn’t buy into the hype around the death of newspapers … they’re huge products and we sell thousands of them daily,” Mr Harrison said.
“The point at which the products become unprofitable we’ll move on from them but not before.”
“We don’t view print as a product we’re not investing in,” general manager of digital and national sales director Paul Sigaloff said.
BMW has signed on to be an advertising partner for the compact launch.