Usually I write about how traditional print publications are adapting to the Web. But what about the Web's impact on the design of print publications?
Let's face it, attention spans are short. Web designers and bloggers alike know this. They design in a user-friendly format and write no more than 500 words.
But if you're a print magazine with pages to fill, how to do keep your readers well-informed without overwhelming their hurried, distracted eyes?BusinessWeek hopes its new format holds the answer. According to a recent New York Times article, "The Internet has hurt business magazines in particular, and the new BusinessWeek format — which includes more news summaries and fewer lifestyle articles — is meant to be more Weblike."
This 'Weblike' format for the print world wasn't born overnight; rather, it took over 18 months and was based on studies of reader preferences. Readers indicated that they wanted "a format that was easier to navigate, as well as information culled from a variety of sources."
The new print design reorganizes the layout of stories. Now the magazine features articles of international interest throughout instead of in a separate section. Maria Bartiromo's column regular Q&A with a well-known executive will be included every week and can be found in the front, rather than in the back.
And all opinion articles have been moved to the back from the front, which is now devoted to news summaries.
The magazine will also feature just two long articles a week, grouped together in the middle.
In addition to the new layout, BusinessWeek is sporting subtle changes to its logo for the first time in more than a decade.
Though the print redesign has little effect on the online version of the magazine, Stephen J. Adler, editor in chief of BusinessWeek, said more articles would be published online first before appearing in the magazine. The magazine will also start reprinting comments from readers that come in through the Web. This is a drastic reversal from the way things are normally done -- appearances first in print, then online (as maybe an afterthought).
These changes were implemented in an effort to improve the magazine's dwindling sales and a circulation that fell 1.2 percent. All business and finance-themed magazines have be taken a hit, unlike style and home décor magazines, whose readers never tire of looking at pretty ads and celebrity photos.
But business pubs offer news that changes regularly and therefore is better suited for online access.
Whether this new design pulls BusinessWeek out of its slump has yet to be seen, but it's encouraging to see print publications taking cues from the Web. As "Weblike" design becomes the de facto layout, print may change entirely. Print media that focused on creating new advertising revenue as a way to save the industry are already shifting focus to design. Ultimately, publishers stuck on ad revenue will find that good design makes for great business.