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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- The official reaction hashtag: #newmtlgazette
- InfoPresse has a short article as do J-Source, ActusMédias, iPhone in Canada and Talking New Media
- La Presse+ has a column from Nathalie Collard, focused on the iPad app. (It says the mobile app will be paywalled, which isn’t true. And the Android phone app is already available.)
- Infoman asked people what they thought on Twitter
- CJAD has positive and negative comments from its audience on Facebook and Twitter
- Global News story on redesigns, including an interview with Managing Editor Michelle Richardson
- Breakfast Television interview with editor Lucinda Chodan
- CTV Montreal interview with editor Lucinda Chodan
- Mario Garcia, a consultant on the Postmedia project, has thoughts on the new designs
- Brand New, a blog reviewing brand changes, pans the new Gazette logo