Berkshire residents picking up The Berkshire Eagle tomorrow morning will notice something different. The pages will have much more color and the print will take on a more modern style.
Eagle editor and regional vice president of news for New England Newspapers Inc. Kevin Moran says the new design brings the paper into the 21st century.
“But I’ve got butterflies in my stomach,” Moran said Monday afternoon from his office. “I’m really looking forward to this redesign and I think readers are going to enjoy it. It’s going to take some getting used to and I understand that. At first, people may be a little confused because it’s more organized. Where did the Sudoku puzzle go that was on the op-ed page? Well I can tell you, it’s on the comics and puzzle page now.”
The template will feature larger headlines and photos to highlight major stories along with significantly more color, according to Moran.
“So if a reader is looking at what we call ‘skyboxes’ at the top of the newspaper and say it happens to be the sports skybox that particular color on the front page referenced to what’s hot on our sports page corresponds to the overall color scheme of that sports page,” said Moran.
On Thursdays, the redesigned paper, both print and digital, will include a page called “News You Can Use.” Moran says it will feature practical advice stemming from home repairs to seasonal topics like the best ways to carve a pumpkin and even background information on major current events.
“It may describe say what’s going on in Iraq,” Moran explained. “What is ISIS? Where do they come from? What is the Peshmerga? A lot of these terms that people may hear in the news often, but may not be able to necessarily translate. We’d like to use that page to be a news translator.”
Moran says the paper has seen a number of changes since its origins as The Western Star, a weekly that began in 1789 in Stockbridge. The latest changes will be the first new look for the Pittsfield-based paper since the early 1990s. Rick Edmonds is a media business analyst with the Poynter Institute. Generally speaking he says redesigns signal newspapers are not stuck in out-of-date ways.
“You want to have a product that continues to have appeal and draw a substantial audience and serves the advertisers well,” Edmonds said. “In addition, it’s just sort of a fact of life that newspaper and print readership skews a little bit older, over time you have a different generation of people moving into adult and middle years and their preferences may be different.”
Noting it’s difficult to generalize, Edmonds says redesigns don’t necessarily create immediate jumps in advertisings or readership.
The Berkshire Eagle is the first publication to roll out the redesign underneath the New England Newspapers Inc. umbrella. Dailies Bennington Banner, The Manchester Journal and the Brattleboro Reformer along with the weekly entertainment package of Berkshires Week & the Shires of Vermont will alter their looks in the coming month. The papers were next in line for the redesign among others owned by Digital First Media, the second largest newspaper company in the U.S. The parent company recently put the Clock Tower Business Park, home to The Eagle and WAMC’s Berkshire news bureau on the market, along with 50 other properties nationwide.
Moran says the redesign resulted in the loss of one job at The Eagle. In January The North Adams Transcript folded into The Eagle combining staff and readership under one website, app and paper. Before the merger, The Eagle’s daily circulation was more than 23,000. Moran says website viewership has increased 25 percent over the past year.