The Chicago Reader will unveil a major redesign of its print edition tomorrow, a makeover that will include a glossy cover and the repositioning of its music section to the back page.
Suggesting more of a magazine than a newspaper, the Reader will be bound by staples and feature a glossy cover. It may be half as thick as it was a few years ago, but at 80 or so pages there’s still some heft. The goal is to make the Reader seem less disposable, more indispensable and more distinct in a crowded media marketplace that includes Time Out Chicago, Newcity and Chicago Tribune’s RedEye.
“This feels more valuable,” said [publisher Alison] Draper, holding a prototype as if weighing it. “It feels like it has more shelf life.”
The Reader retained the services of design consultant Ron Reason for the project, which has been in the works since September. Reason also worked on the redesign of sister paper Creative Loafing (Atlanta).
In a blog post, Reason discusses the transformation of the back page into a “flip” music section, which essentially creates two separate publications depending on which way the paper is flipped:
Concern over the loss of back-page ad revenue was raised immediately, and almost as quickly, Draper said: Let me deal with that. She realized that the “Why not? What if?” exercise needs you to put all your cards on the table and to look at the pros and cons of any new idea fairly. We talked through: What’s it gonna cost us? What do we gain? She knew immediately there was a “buzz factor” with the flip concept, and thought the overall change could create appeal to many kinds of advertisers, not just back-page premium folks.
She also pointed out: now we have TWO full-page inside cover ad positions, to be sold at a premium, now on glossy stock.
Addressing concerns that the change might be confusing to readers, Reason says, “Preview groups got the concept right away, without explanation, and viewed it as a dynamic change.”