Last Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel's new layout was unveiled to readers (see top), including "more graphics, quick-read digests of top news, blog summaries and other changes" in order to make it more attractive to busy readers, Wall Street Journal reported.
Since December, Samuel Zell has been in charge of the Tribune Co., which owns Chicago Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times. Zell's eight billion dollar buyout left Tribune Co. with a 13 billion dollar debt "amid an industrywide meltdown", according to the WSJ.
Zell has scheduled for the Tribune Co. papers to be redesigned by September this year. Some of the changes to be made include "scaled-back page counts and further paring of employees", the WSJ said.
The new look of the Sentinel attempts to make the paper become more "eye-catching" and plentiful with interesting, "alluring" stories, WSJ wrote.
"Our community is fast moving, very modern. It's changing and growing. We need to have a paper that feels like that, too." said Charlotte Hall, Sentinel Editor.
In the last year, the Sentinel's circulation has decreased to 227, 593, compared to Miami Herald's 240,000 and St. Petersburg Times 300,000. However, the Sentinel's Sunday circulation is 332,000.
The general trend for newspaper redesign, according to the WSJ, is "splashier colour, simpler layouts and more digestible stories."
Although the new version of the Sentinel corresponds to the trend, it "isn't as radical as it could be", Hall said. Lee Abrams, in charge of innovation, "encouraged" the newspaper to "emphasize its stars" by adding front-page photographs of columnists with excerpts from columns, WSJ wrote.
Local news coverage, consumer information and "government-watchdog stories" all increased and reporters have been coached on different story-telling techniques.
According to the WSJ, Zell thinks Tribune Co.'s newspaper division is "stuck in the past", perhaps not accommodating "readers used to the pizzazz and immediacy of the Web."
It isn't clear whether a makeover will change the financial condition of Tribune Co., as ad sales have generally been declining in the newspaper industry. The Newspaper Association of America said that in the first quarter newspaper ads dropped by 13 %, Tribune Co.'s falling by 15%.
The Bakerfield Californian's redesign in March 2006 got the paper a short-paced circulation and revenue growth that soon worsened. Chief Executive Richard Beene said, "Don't expect it to turn around circulation or revenue overnight. It's not a magic bullet." In his blog, Howard Owens said that he is "surprised" that not a lot of people compared the Sentinel's revamping to the Californian, terming the makeover "shocking", "wild", "bold" but not "original".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Baltimore Sun are next in line for the revamping; meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune is to "test new ideas" in Saturday editions. Abrams mentioned that even though the Orlando Sentinel's new design will be used as a prototype, "every paper will be left to chart its own course", WSJ wrote.
Design experts have generally given the Sentinel's new look a thumbs-up, WSJ reports. Howar Greenberg, Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel publisher, said advertisers are enthusiastic about the makeover, which he thought might help improve ad revenue.
Hall said that for the time being, the readers will be "listened" to "carefully", to observe the impact that the redesign has.