Montreal Gazette redesigns paper, launches new website and iPad and smartphone apps

Monday and Tuesday editions of the Montreal Gazette

Monday and Tuesday editions of the Montreal Gazette

The project called The Gazette Reimagined went live at 12am on Tuesday, with a four-platform relaunch that includes a dramatic print redesign, a new website and new iPad and smartphone apps.

The new website went live at midnight, though it may take a bit of time for the DNS changes to propagate through the Internet. The new smartphone apps are in the Apple app store and Google Play store, and the new iPad app is also in the Apple app store. (The old smartphone and tablet apps will remain available, for those who want to read website stories on their smartphone but don’t want to use the mobile website.)

Editor Lucinda Chodan explains the general changes in a note to readers that appears on Page A2. There’s also a news (well, business) story about the changes and a podcast interview with Chodan an managing editor Michelle Richardson. But for the more attention-to-detail crowd, here’s some nitty gritty about what’s going on that I can finally tell you.

What’s changing overall:

  • The name: A trivial one, but nevertheless fundamental. Before today, the paper was officially “The Gazette”. As of today, it’s “Montreal Gazette”. The new name reflects the fact that it needs to distinguish itself in a global environment. And everyone outside of the city called it that anyway.
  • The logo: I’m guessing this will be the most controversial change. The old “The Gazette” logo in old English script has been wiped away, replaced by a square blue logo with the words “Montreal Gazette” on top in white. The logo has a diagonal dark-blue strip meant to symbolize the island of Montreal.
  • The four-platform strategy: Rather than having the same story on four different platforms, the new strategy put forward by Postmedia is to have each platform be a separate publication with different content marketed toward a different demographic. They’ll all cover the major stories, but in different ways. The web will be focused on breaking news, the iPad on more magazine-like features and visual elements, the smartphone on easy-to-digest news of the day and the print paper on context, analysis, opinion and all the features one expects from a once-a-day print paper.
  • Management: The four-platform strategy means each platform has its own manager and its own editing team, as I reported in August. This hasn’t involved new people being brought in, but rather a reshuffling of existing staff. I’m on the smartphone team, which means I’m much more familiar with that platform than the others. In fact, I’ve seen very little of the other platforms (except the website) before today.

What’s not changing overall:

  • The price: The paper is still $1.30 on the newsstand, $1.76 outside metro Montreal and $1.87 in Quebec City. Subscription fees for print delivery ($30/month) or digital-only access ($10/month) aren’t changing.
  • Us: The people are the same. There are no new columnists, no change in editorial standards. Journalists are trying to be more creative in how they tell their stories, but the fundamentals are the same. And we still take our orders from the Conservative Party of Canada, Shaw/Rogers/Bell/Telus/Quebecor, the Liberal Party of Quebec, the Illuminati, the big banks and that kid who bullied you in high school.

A1

What’s changing in print:

  • New design: Essentially identical to the design used by the Ottawa Citizen, and which will be adopted by other Postmedia papers except the Vancouver Province and National Post, the design includes new typefaces, new layout strategy, more emphasis on design elements like pullquotes and pullout numbers, and lots of coloured squares.
  • New sections: Rather than News/Business/Sports/Arts&Life/Classified, the sections are broken down as News, Context, Sports and You, each with a different colour. “Context” includes national and world news and opinion, focusing on analysis rather than reporting. The “You” section is what Arts & Life has turned into. Local news moves closer to the front of the A section.
  • FP Montreal: The takeover of the local business section by Postmedia’s Financial Post takes another major step as the business section is renamed FP Montreal. The section will have local business news followed by stories and stock listings from the Financial Post.
  • Index moves: Some information that was formerly at the bottom of the front page, including the index, quote of the day and weather at a glance, have moved to the left side of Page A2.
  • Colour comics: The weekday comics page goes all-colour, now that The Gazette has moved its printing to Transcontinental and has colour on every page.
  • The weather page: It goes from about a quarter page in black and white to a half page in colour, above the TV listings. The new weather includes a larger North American map, and more world cities listed, with two-day instead of one-day forecasts. Otherwise it’s mainly the same information.
  • TV listings (slightly): The new TV listings are presented in larger type, going from 7-11pm instead of 7pm-12:30am. Some channels have changed, adding channels like AMC, TSN2, TVA Sports, Sun News Network and Sportsnet One.

What’s not changing in print:

  • Most regular features: From TV listings to Annie’s Mailbox to the horoscope and scoreboard to the selection of comics and puzzles, the things people are used to in the paper are still there, albeit redesigned. In fact, some features have been brought back. The Tip Sheet and It’s a Date community listings were quietly killed two years ago, and have been reinstated by popular demand.
  • The paper and ink: The physical aspects of the production process aren’t changing. It’s the same paper, of the same size, with the same inks as before. It’s the content, not the container, that’s changing. Similarly, there’s no change to distribution.

New Gazette website

What’s changing online:

  • New responsive design: Following the trend of having websites adapt themselves to users’ displays instead of assuming a standard width, the website is viewable on giant screens or smartphones. It index pages have large headlines and large photos, and sections are colour-coordinated to match the new print edition.
  • WordPress back-end: Probably the biggest change behind the scenes is that the main back-end is now based on WordPress, the software that runs the website. Rather than write stories in a print-focused content management system (Adobe InCopy), reporters write directly into WordPress, which allows them to add inline links and do other things that were more difficult previously. This has meant dramatic changes to how both writers and editors work, and has taken the most getting used to.
  • Author pages: Rather than typing bylines in manually, each staff writer has their own account (here’s mine), allowing us to have automatic author pages listing every story with that person’s byline, along with a photo and email address. Though there’s no direct link I can find, tacking on “/feed” to the end of the URL of the author page brings up an RSS feed that can be subscribed to for updates.

What’s not changing online:

  • Facebook will remain the means of user comments on stories.
  • ePaper: The Press Display viewer, allowing people to see the print edition on their computers, is still around.
  • The paywall: No change in strategy here. People get 10 free articles a month, then are asked to pay to keep reading.

Gazette tablet edition

What’s changing on the iPad app:

  • Design focus: The new iPad app is a huge departure from the previous one, in which every story had the same ugly layout. The new app is very design-y, and takes more advantage of the functionality of the tablet. It’s laid out like a magazine instead of automatically pulling in a story with a standard layout from the website. Think La-Presse-Plus-y.
  • Daily publishing schedule: Rather than being a continuously updating feed of stories, the iPad app will be a daily magazine, published weekdays at 6pm (there’s no edition on weekends). People looking for breaking news are encouraged to go to the website instead.

What’s not changing on the iPad app:

  • It still requires a subscription, though there’s a Videotron sponsorship that makes it free for the next three months.

(For those without an iPad, you can see what the app’s stories look like here: Tuesday’s edition, Wednesday’s edition)

Smartphone

What’s changing on the smartphone app:

  • The independence: Rather than just be an app to see the same stories on the website, the new Gazette smartphone app is a separate publication with its own stories. Often they’re adaptations, condensed versions of stories appearing online and in print. In other cases they’re stories that don’t appear on other platforms. The key is stories that are short, quick to read, and informative at a glance. People interested in reading full-length stories are invited to go to the website, which will be viewable on the smartphone.
  • The voice: Meant for an audience of 18-34-year-olds, the smartphone app is more irreverent, snarky and sarcastic where warranted, fun where it doesn’t have to be serious about the news. (You can imagine why I was chosen for this team.)
  • Screen-based layouts: Instead of being one long column of content that you scroll through, stories on the smartphone are broken up into screens that can be swiped through. This has required some additional editing work to ensure screen breaks are between paragraphs, which is difficult to do when even on different models of iPhones the size of the screen is different. (It’s meant to fit on the iPhone 4, which means a bit more white space on the 5 and 6.)

What’s not changing on the smartphone app:

  • It’s still free.

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30 thoughts on “Montreal Gazette redesigns paper, launches new website and iPad and smartphone apps

  1. Media Man

    Good work everybody, the newspaper looks jazzy, and seeing the next two Saturdays I’m in work situation where like sitting at a desk,etc this will be a good time to sit back and check out the paper..a look at your example of the online/web edition, is also cool..

    I think for sure I”ll download the mobile app to my phone but is it available for Android, if not, when, and can I politely say that some suit in TO doesn’t seem to be that astute ad for the last several years, there have been more Android activations than Apple…just sayin’…but outside of that..good work.

    Reply
  2. Steven

    Looking through the new website I can’t find the old “Blogs” section (ShowBiz, Music, Cinema Blog, etc.). Will those blogs still be maintained on the new website?

    Also, will the long form/magazine iPad app area be available as an Android app, as LaPresse+ eventually did? Not everyone that wants to see that section has an iPad, so even if they paid for it they can never access it unless that get an iPad. As it looks now, only the quick “breaking news” is available for Android.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Looking through the new website I can’t find the old “Blogs” section (ShowBiz, Music, Cinema Blog, etc.). Will those blogs still be maintained on the new website?

      As I understand it, yes. I believe they will be part of the same content management system (so the difference between a blog and a story will be more semantic than technical). Where they will be I don’t know.

      Also, will the long form/magazine iPad app area be available as an Android app, as LaPresse+ eventually did?

      I don’t know about future plans, but right now it’s iPad-only. Unfortunately, as La Presse demonstrated, it’s still a lot easier to design just for the iPad than to design an app that can work with all the various Android tablets.

      Reply
  3. gds

    Embedded video in articles that play ad automatically. Very annoying. Just because I clicked on a article doesn’t mean I want the video ad to play. Not that there is any way to know ahead of time that there is an embedded video.

    Financial Post taking over Business section doesn’t mean more national stories. It means more Toronto stories. Proof on day one, “Toronto bakery Le Dolci’s growth is less about strategy than it is about passion” appears on the Montreal page. No way the “Montreal jazz clubs swing but no is making millions, yet” article would ever appear in the Toronto website (if there was a Toronto paper) even though they are similar articles. Looks like the algorithm will be, if its Toronto, push it to all editions.

    Top section of website is really wierd. Not sure with its 48 font and why there is a huge white space between the drop down “Sections” and the huge “Subscribe Now” link. That would seem like the logical place to put the name “Montreal Gazette” instead of wasting a news below in the next section. Also, are there really that many people that are going to the PostMedia website that it needs a huge hyperlink at the top of the page.

    Section tabs are odd too. The sections drop down has colors associated to sections, but they are not unique. So light blue is Local and Business, why isn’t Business a different colour instead. What is the point of the colors then? Also, the font for those sections is small then the headlines, and way smaller then the size of the light blue rectangle. Why use such a small font or why make such a big rectangle.

    When the Sections drop down is open, most of the sections have popouts that list additional sections, but not all do. That lack of consistency is annoying. Sometimes, I click on the right popout sometime I simply click on the section, but I can always click on only the section. When there is a popout, the first link is always all. If I wanted all, I would have clicked on the section itself, not waited for the flyover popout section to open just to click on what I could have clicked on previously. Opinions section popout has subsections and then headlines with pictures while no other section has that, its another inconsistency.

    Articles seemed to be doubled when they are also National. Local that is also National should be omitted from National. You wouldn’t print the same article twice in the newspaper, why display it twice on the cover?

    Hate the idea of launching an I-Pad specific app and not a Google one at the same time. There are pretty much as many Google Tablets as there are Ipads. It makes no sense to slight that market. La Presse did the same thing, but they were first out of the gate and have an Google version now. What is the excuse here? especially since the Ottawa Citizen version has been up for some time.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Embedded video in articles that play ad automatically. Very annoying.

      I agree.

      Financial Post taking over Business section doesn’t mean more national stories. It means more Toronto stories.

      When it comes to business, is there that much difference? There’s some stuff from out west too, from the Calgary and Edmonton papers.

      Proof on day one, “Toronto bakery Le Dolci’s growth is less about strategy than it is about passion” appears on the Montreal page.

      Actually it’s on the Business page. This is the Montreal business page and that story doesn’t appear there.

      The sections drop down has colors associated to sections, but they are not unique. So light blue is Local and Business, why isn’t Business a different colour instead.

      As I understand it, Business is part of News, which is blue. Arts and Life are the same colour for similar reasons.

      There are pretty much as many Google Tablets as there are Ipads. It makes no sense to slight that market.

      Sure it does. Saying there are as many Android tablets as iPads missed the fundamental point that all iPads are the same (functionally) and all Android tablets are not. You only need to design once for the iPad, but differently for each type of Android tablet. Even now La Presse+ only works on a select number of Android devices.

      Reply
      1. gds

        That argument is not longer true. Since KitKat, Android automatically adjusts for differences in screen size. Like I said, if LaPresse+ can be available on Android, there is no reason the launch could not have been coordinated.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Like I said, if LaPresse+ can be available on Android, there is no reason the launch could not have been coordinated.

          Except for the exact same reasons La Presse didn’t launch on both simultaneously.

          Reply
          1. gds

            I don’t understand your argument. Because LaPresse release the android version 6 months later, its acceptable for PostMedia to do it. When LaPresse+ launched the Google version is irrelevant. The fact that they have both now makes having both the new standard.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Because LaPresse release the android version 6 months later, its acceptable for PostMedia to do it.

              I’m not judging acceptability. I’m saying the reasons La Presse+ launched just on the iPad and the reason The Gazette launched its tablet app just on the iPad are the same.

              The fact that they have both now makes having both the new standard.

              I don’t know why you think La Presse sets the standard for newspaper tablet applications. Or what you think the consequences are for not meeting that standard.

              Reply
  4. Laurence Kranich

    The new iPad app isn’t available in the US as of tonight. The store redirects me to the Canada App Store (who knew they were different?) and then tells me my account isn’t valid there. No such trouble on the Google Play store for my Android stuff.

    Reply
  5. Dilbert

    It’s interesting to see it play out, but it’s also amusing to think that Postmedia thinks that four times the work will somehow generate more income.

    Putting it on wordpress is interesting. No, you don’t have to use wordpress to get responsive design (you can do that in simple html and css), but it does give some advantages (and a ton of issues, including security, like having the wp-login accessible from everywhere in the world… hackers will love you long time!)

    The downside of moving to wordpress is that (not shockingly) the website looks generic now. The design template is pretty much standard “news site” layout that you can buy for $29 – $300 online (depending on where you get it). It certainly is a huge improvement over the mish-mash site that was there before, but it’s not stellar. Thankfully, specifically blocking a single file gets rid of the paywall.

    Basic concept: if you have a payway, don’t have massive advertising spaces and pre-roll video ads as well. It’s not a friendly combination online. If you run lots of ads, the site should be free.

    The paper redesign looks better, actually. Much more color, much more modern. A good shot (and maybe the last shot) at making the paper relevant in a declining market. The question will be if the senior citizen crowd that makes up a fair bit of the market will like the overly colorful layout.

    Having a Ipad app is nice, I guess. Making a mobile phone app (rather than just encouraging people to surf the wonderful responsive wordpress site) seems a bit silly and a needless duplication of efforts. Perhaps the time could have been better spent to make the responsive site actually 100% correct, as some of the things in the header (like the “new gazette” blue line) do not resize down past a certain point and thus ruin the responsive effect.

    Overall, this is somewhere between “good move” and “wow, desperate, ain’t we?”. Good luck with it!

    Reply
  6. Tom May

    Well the site is nice especially the responsive side BUT on a mobile phone it loads 5megs of data and very slow to load.

    Reply
  7. Neil Laverdiere

    I think you mean the changes “went live” at midnight Monday, not midnight Tuesday. Midnight ends the day, as we were taught long ago in Copy Editors’ School.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think you mean the changes “went live” at midnight Monday, not midnight Tuesday. Midnight ends the day, as we were taught long ago in Copy Editors’ School.

      Hi Neil! That sound crazy to me. It’s 12 a.m. Tuesday, no?

      Reply
      1. R.

        It’s 11:59:59 PM Monday night or 12:00:00 AM Tuesday. Unless copy editor school works on a different clock system from the rest of the world… :-)

        Reply
      2. Justin

        It’s crazy, but Neil is right. Standard usage is “midnight Monday” for what is technically Tuesday 00:00:00 (or 12 am). This is probably why we see things timed for 00:01 or 12:01 am instead, which eliminates any perceived ambiguity.

        Reply
  8. mario

    Cookie cutter layouts coming to all current Postmedia outlets.
    Joking aside, i’m Ok with the layout.

    Just the change in logo and name of the paper that irks me.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Cookie cutter layouts coming to all current Postmedia outlets.

      Most. The idea is to avoid unnecessary duplication of work, both in designing new papers and in creating national pages for those papers.

      Reply
      1. Dilbert

        Essentially, wrap a local wrapper around a national newspaper / website and act like it’s all made for the local market. Good business move, certainly a good way to get rid of a few more staff over time!

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Essentially, wrap a local wrapper around a national newspaper / website and act like it’s all made for the local market.

          Not quite. More like a hybrid local/national newspaper and website (and iPad application), with contributions from both.

          Reply
  9. Noah Sidel

    Positive comment: Great re-design, love the platform-specific approach.

    Negative comment: Having a paywall is an awful idea that will do nothing but alienate people. Very disappointed Postmedia decided to keep that approach.

    Reply
  10. Marc

    Love the full color comics. The fonts will take some getting used to. Not at all pleased about the index being removed from the front page.

    Reply
  11. Laurence Kranich

    After two days of reading the iPad app, I’m really impressed by the quality of the stories and the terrific graphics. It could be the best newspaper iPad app I’ve ever seen. But the Montreal-first organization is too rigid. The Ottawa shootings were the top story today – probably the top story of the year. I had to scroll through 9 other stories, including features on a comedy club and a zoning law violation, before I got to the major news coverage. That’s not right.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Why one must have an Facebook account in order to add a comment on “The Gazette” website?

      Because it’s easier logistically. Most people have Facebook accounts already, tied to their real names. Using Facebook means people don’t have to sign up for separate Gazette user accounts, and Postmedia doesn’t have to administer them.

      People who absolutely must comment on a story and absolutely refuse to get Facebook accounts can still send letters to the editor.

      Reply
      1. Michael Black

        Except, comments aren’t just “I like this” or “me too”.

        It’s been a long time since the Gazette has printed a letter of mine. Yet there was that period where the “what’s open/what’s closed” bit for Labor Day said grocery stores would be open, when the rules had changed. For three or four years, it kept happening, and I’d email a letter to the editor. My letters were never published, so there was no correction. Finally I bcc’d it to someone else, and then there was a correction.

        Especially with turnover, whoever writes something may not be the expert. Comments can correct that, or add details. I’ve seen too much copy and pasting from press releases, and sometimes it gets garbled, because the writer isn’t looking at other things. And ironically, a comment is more likely to be published than a letter to the editor, due to space restrictions.

        “Everyone has facebook”, but I don’t. I can remember when logging into your ISP was good enough. When the Gazette forces the use of facebook, they are part of the selling process of facebook, which exists to make money. This is a creep, requiring some Big Brand registration, putting everyone behind gates, when the revolution was to build common space. Just because “everyone” has facebook is not reason to make it mandatory for comments, and just because other sites have gone to requiring facebook or google doesn’t mean the Gazette should follow.

        The Gazette has just gotten lazy about this, following others rather than actually making decisions.

        Michael

        Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Kinda off topic but is Andy Riga still with the Gazette?

      Actually it’s on topic. Riga is now on the tablet team. Jason Magder has taken over the transportation beat.

      Reply

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