by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Panpa Bulletin : August 2006
34 | PANPA bULLETIN august 2006 There is no shortage of good cir- culation-buildingideasinthenews- paper industry today. The agile and creative minds of editors and mar- keting people are constantly pro- ducing new promotions, special in- serts and new ways to capture new magazine and newspaper readers, both through the print media and the internet. Some award-winning ideas, such as The Adelaide Advertiser and Sun- day Mail's build a robot campaign are quite brilliant and achieve their goal of increasing readership and circulation. However, just like the graphic symbol that represents one of the pinnacles of all good ideas, a brightly shining light bulb, most cir- culation-building brainwaves have a relatively short lifespan and, like light bulbs, need regular replace- ment. Creativity, in all its forms and dimensions, is one of the greatest strengths of our industry and is a prime attraction and motivation for readers to continue buying news- papers and magazines. But, somewhat sadly, in all the rush to uncover creative new ide- as, some established and proven circulation winners are being ne- glected. The most glaring example is the comics page, a great idea now languishing and in need of atten- tion. William Randolph Hurst, the newspaper publisher who trans- formed the newspaper industry in the USA, is credited with coming up with the revolutionary idea that the way to attract young readers to newspapers and develop a lifelong newspaper reading habit was to in- troduce comics. Hurst also had another good idea. He introduced large headlines to add weight and importance to news stories and grab the atten- tion of adults. That worked, as did Hurst's strategy of introducing comics to attract young readers. Large headlines have survived as a good idea. So why not comics in the way that proved so successful in the Hurst era? The current dilemma over win- ning the hearts and minds of young readers is highlighted in a recent PANPA Bulletin. Among other things, the article notes: "Captur- ing younger readers is probably the most serious issue facing news- papers today". And goes on to say: "Most of the strategies used so far don't work". The article was based on a US report which stressed that news- papers needed to think seriously about attracting readers as young as eight years of age, or miss out on attracting them at all. This is just as relevant in Australia as it is in the USA. The report noted trends that are leading to the reinvention of the newspaper itself. However, it went on to state that special sections, supplements and clever websites were not succeeding in attracting young readers. After extensive research 50 edito- rial strategies were offered as pos- sible solutions to the problem. I won't elaborate on them here, but I'd like to suggest that while all of the strategies have their merit and may help, the comic page still remains the simplest and most cost effective method of attracting young readers and keeping them long term. To some, this thinking may seem old-fashioned. But the truth is that exciting, well-presented,interesting and readable comics sections have helped build the circulations of some of Australia's and the world's best newspapers. However, some- where along the line in recent years many of our editors and publishers have downgraded the importance of the comics. Everyone agrees we live in a changing environment and that we must move with the times. Comics can adapt to this changing environment but to allow them to perform to their maximum as read- ership builders they must receive a fair share of the resources and crea- tive thinking that is currently being directed towards other features and sections. Specifically, there is not so much a need to review the content of the comics page, but there is a definite and urgent need to review its place- ment, presentation, marketing, promotion and integration with other sections, which form the total newspaper package. The first goal that needs to be achieved is to lift the profile of the comics page. If comics pages are going to reach their audience they need to be easily found. Unfortunately, to- day's increasingly common trend is to bury comic sections deep in places where they are difficult to locate -- then squeeze individual comics down in size to save space. Some newspapers have reduced the comics to almost illegible sizes. This sends out a clear message. It's almost asifthe newspaper editor is saying:"We don't think this comic strip is important, so don't read it." And many older readers who grew up with the comics feel alienated and won't read them because their failing eyesight can't cope with the tiny print. The headlines that William Ran- dolph Hurst thought so important to attract readers are non-existent in the comic sections. Most com- ics pages carry no header or at best a very small header, which ignores the conventional wisdom that a well-designed banner or brand, properly promoted, has the poten- tial to lift a product to the top of its market. Comic strips and their characters are also like brands, usually well es- tablished and much loved.Yet, they are rarely used for promotional purposes, either to promote the newspapers in which they appear or to promote the sections in which they appear. In a world now alive with col- our -- on television, in magazines, newspapers and even the 'junk mail' shoved into our letter boxes -- many comics remain a poor rela- tion and appear in black and white. Even with the most modern full colour presses, not every page of a newspaper has access to full colour, as we all know. But publishing them on mono only pages, as most daily newspa- pers do, is again a clear indication to readers that the publishers think they are of secondary importance, when, in fact, full colour daily com- ics would not only bring the comics page alive for the readers but also uplift their profile and recognise them as being an important part of daily readership. Editors need to take a leaf from the past and come to understand that reading comics is not old-fash- ioned or passé and, despite some views to the contrary, has not been supplanted by computer games as a pastime for children. Some bold and creative new thinking is required. Make the comics a special feature. Have a dedicated comics page. Brighten up their presentation. Give children a reason to read them. Everyone agrees we live in a changing environment and that we must move with the times. Comics can adapt to this changing environment but to allow them to perform to their maximum as readership builders they must receive a fair share of the resources. Nothing funny about the original idea of putting comics in newspapers to attract young readers