18 Apr

The new Cincinnati Enquirer format: the good, the bad and the ugly

By Mimi Rasor, APR


On March 11, the Cincinnati Enquirer became only the second major daily paper in the country to move to a new compact 10.5″ x 14.67″ size. Called the “Super Compact/Three Around” in industry lingo, the new size and corresponding content has been under design for more than a year.

Enquirer owner Gannett had been planning the switch for some time to cut costs via reduced paper and shared printing resources with the Columbus Dispatch, which also made the transition to the smaller format after being approached by Gannett to share printing. Gannett has clearly seen its share of rough times, coming through the recession with its share price dipping as low as $2.20. Now on the rise, maybe they’ll attribute part of their success to taking a leap of faith in this new format (in addition to the diversification of its business to include more than 100 on-line and digital assets).

Rick Edmonds, researcher and writer for the Poynter Institute on business and journalism, listed his thoughts on five reasons why Gannett was the first media conglomerate to move to the Super Compact Three Around size, including all the things we would expect about progressive thinking, cost savings and strong positioning with Wall Street.

After its initial launch, media reports show readers have responded positively to the new format, in some cases overwhelmingly so, according to the Enquirer itself. Many comments have included praise for the ease of navigating through the content of the smaller size, while others compare the new format to “commuter” papers of large cities.

Sooo, am I the only one who feels a little cheated when I pick up the new “mini” paper?  It’s just hard to get into the mindset that we are part of a hip, cosmopolitan community when I pick up what feels like a school newspaper. Are the benefits of “not getting the paper in my Cheerios” as one reader put it, really all that great? And as president of a Cincinnati marketing communications agency, how do these changes affect media placement and advertising for our clients?

But maybe I’m just cynical, so please chime in if you feel differently! Here’s my take on the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

·      More environmentally friendly. In our society of abundance, it’s good to see major institutions make broad sweeping changes to reduce their carbon footprint. Though according to the Dispatch article above, it may be a wash since the smaller size requires more pages. At any rate, it does appear on the surface to be less wasteful.

·      Easier to hold. If you’re just looking at one section, it’s pretty simple to thumb through and read stories from beginning to end without too much page flipping.

·      Quicker to read complete stories. I think it’s easier and faster to skim through and read stories of interest for the most part.

The Bad:

·      A paper with many small sections is cumbersome. Not sure I can put my finger on why, but having several small sections to piece through is more difficult than a few of the broadsheet size.

·      Feels like less news. I know they keep saying it’s the same amount of news, but somehow, it feels like less. Maybe the stories pop in a more compact size, but they feel shorter to me.

·      It’s cute. I just can’t think of another way to say it. Sitting on the table next to the Sunday New York Times or even the Cincinnati Business Courier tabloid, it just doesn’t have the presence to stand up to its 187-year-old heritage.

The Ugly:

·      Ads are smaller. I’m, of course, speaking for the advertisers who pay the majority of costs for all of us to receive this fine publication. Smaller newspaper = smaller ads. As long as the price shrank with the sizes, maybe that’s not an issue. Or if advertisers see higher response rates due ads breaking through the smaller format and/or subscribers increase, maybe it’s a good thing.

Anyone who still reads the daily must have an opinion. Give us your thoughts below.

Maybe part of what doesn’t feel right has to do with the old Mark Twain adage about Cincinnati. Being 20 years behind the times doesn’t compute with us being one of the first to take the leap into mini-paper land. Maybe I just need to get over it and get with the times… and the fact that Cincinnati is ahead of them? Hmm…

My guess is time will tell how successful the new format will be based on the publication’s ability to grow subscribers and advertisers. As someone who believes strongly in the importance of solid journalism and freedom of speech, I hope the results lead to a long-term, sustainable publication.