Monday, October 19, 2009

The Washington Post just changed the format of their print edition (yeah, I know it doesn't do any good to provide an electronic link to a print product).

Why? Do they believe that rearranging the articles on the page or including pictures of the columnists is going to convince people to start reading the print edition? Or convince people who would have stopped doing so but for this amazing redesign to continue reading the print edition?

The old format was fine, there was nothing about it that discouraged people who wanted to read the paper from doing so. There was nothing about it that deterred a non-reader from picking it up and becoming a reader.

So why change?

Because (tired analogy alert) like passengers on a sinking ship rearranging the deck chairs, the people who work at the Post want to do something that will save their sinking ship... yet, like those who would rearrange deck chairs on a sinking sink, their efforts aren't geared to solving the real problem, to plugging the real leak.

Some (who, exactly?) might say a redesign is no big deal, that while it doesn't help, it doesn't hurt anything either. But that is wrong, for every man hour devoted to a redesign is a man hour that isn't available to help management fix the real problems... and with the problems the Post (and other print papers have), they need to devote every hour possible to fixing the real problems. So while the staff might feel excited about this re-design, in a perverse way, it only makes it more likely that the ship is going to end up sinking. A well-designed sinking, but a sinking nonetheless.