Idaho Statesman focuses on readers with new design

Vicki Gowler.
Vicki Gowler.

On Wednesday, we’re rolling out a series of improvements aimed at addressing ever-changing reader habits.

How you get news and information has changed dramatically in the past few years. We — and our parent company, McClatchy — have spent the past year talking to readers of all kinds: subscribers and non-subscribers, avid smartphone users, app lovers, print loyalists, desktop-at-work professionals, tablet junkies and die-hard social media followers.

At the same time, we have been sharing sketches of different designs, different typefaces and different storytelling approaches to get readers’ reactions. We’ve used experts across our company — as well as hiring experts in the industry — to make smarter use of color and white space, to create easier-to-read typefaces and to experiment with new storytelling approaches.

We started making changes earlier this year when we launched the new front-page “home page in print” concept and our Depth section. The first improvement made it easier for most of you to find the stories and information you want; the second provided more enterprise, watchdog and behind-the-scenes coverage. Remember Cynthia Sewell’s deeper look at how the Idaho State Police interfered with a fatal crash investigation and then retaliated against the whistleblowers? Or Rocky Barker’s step-back piece on how the wilderness was won, explaining how the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill finally passed through Congress? Both were in our new Depth section.

These latest improvements include a more colorful and bolder design. The new typefaces that were created include a larger body type; the newspaper should be an easier, quicker read. Over time, the colors should be a navigational cue that will get you to your favorite content. Blue for news, red for features and entertainment, green for sports, gold for opinion. Our content will remain the same with your favorite features anchored in the same places.

The improvements showcase our decision to play to the distinctive advantages of each of our products, with more of a focus on the latest breaking news, photos and videos online and deeper, more analytical stories and commentary in print.

Readers on all platforms told us they want to be engaged and informed by local content that both tells them what’s happening now and draws them deeper into a story, offering them information that empowers them to act. Our research shows that readers engage more online in enterprise and watchdog stories that include visuals, particularly video. Putting more emphasis on video is a key focus of our improvements. We hope to continue increasing the quantity and quality of our videos to illustrate the details best told visually.

We also learned that readers will read longer stories, even on smaller screens, but we are experimenting with how to make it easier for readers to choose the way they want to consume a story. It’s called “layered” journalism, where you can skim the headlines and highlights or go deeper, with more details and links to related content.

Our website will now be responsive, meaning that the new format automatically adapts to best fit your screen size.

What’s not changing is our commitment to work hard to be your trusted source of news and information on whatever platform you choose to use, focusing on the topics you have identified as most important.

We have reorganized our talented and award-winning staff to provide more watchdog stories, to hold government and education leaders accountable, to help you navigate the local health care system, to live in today’s economy, to participate in the Treasure Valley’s active and vibrant scene and to play outdoors. We’ve also created a team to move more quickly to cover the events and issues that resonate with you and provide answers to all of your questions.

We are committed to keep our focus on what our readers and advertisers need. When you see the changes Wednesday, do let us know what you like and what you don’t. We’ll have a special feedback form for you to use online — or you can call me.

We’ve been a successful and integral part of the Treasure Valley for more than 150 years. We intend to be around for a lot longer.

Thank you for reading the Idaho Statesman.

Vicki Gowler is editor and vice president of the Statesman. Contact her at 377-6403 or vgowler@idahostatesman.com or Twitter: @vgowler