The newspaper industry has come up with plenty of ideas to try and compete or coexist with the internet, most of them pretty awful. But The Wall Street Journal recently announced plans to redesign its printed edition in a smaller format, and it's interesting to see how the internet has impacted several of the design and editorial decisions. The biggest change, obviously, is the smaller page size, which should allow for a significant cost reduction. Many European newspapers, including the WSJ's European edition, are shrinking their pages even more and going with Berliner or tabloid-size editions to make the paper more convenient, particularly for commuters -- and consumers have responded well to the change. It's a small change, but one made partly because the environment for news is becoming more competitive. What's particularly interesting in the new WSJ, though, is that the smaller pages mean a smaller "news hole", or less room for stories, so it will edit stories more tightly, particularly if they're deemed "yesterday's news". The business and financial press moves very quickly, so it makes little sense for many stories broken online to be reprinted again in the next day's paper, and this is a tacit admission of that. The print edition will focus on those stories that make the WSJ stand out from its rivals, both in print and online, like its well-known page-one features. This sort of move makes a lot of sense for newspapers. Too often, they try to protect their print edition at all costs by dumbing down their web versions and putting up roadblocks to their content. This doesn't make a lot of sense; they should realize that the news is moving more quickly than a once-a-day printed newspaper can handle, and adapt accordingly by putting more material online, and using their print editions for stories that may not be so time-sensitive, or other features that don't translate well to the web. The WSJ realizes it's got little to gain from reprinting every story that was all over its web site the day before, and that for those stories it does print, they can't be written and edited the same way they always have, since people tend to scan and read more quickly than they used to. The printed newspaper isn't irrelevant; it just needs to evolve to stay relevant. Of course, these changes in the offline world don't mean the WSJ has gotten everything right, online, though, where its paywall continues to frustrate.
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