In the age of the Internet, newspapers are diligently brainstorming ways to get readers to engage in both their print products and the Web. But how do we do that when our readership is getting older, printing is getting more expensive, and readers want their news quicker than ever?
Janine Sack, Andine Müller and the staff of Berlin’s der Freitag seem to have figured it out. Self-admittedly recognizing their readership was getting older, they wanted to find a way to tap into the younger audience as well as give themselves a dynamic, interactive Web presence.
“The old der Freitag had good credibility but not enough visuality to get more accessible to the readers. The task was actually to keep the uniqueness but not to become part of the mainstream. The focus is still an analytical view of the world and, as a weekly, not news driven — not even on the Web side,” Müller said.
While der Freitag’s focus has shifted to the Web, the staff has incorporated the interactive, community-centered elements of their online presence into the print paper. These changes didn’t happen without some reservations, though.
“I had some old-fashioned ideas [before the website redesign]. Why are people spending all this time [blogging]? That was my question. I’m still astounded sometimes how extremely thorough people follow what you’re doing and how they react to it,” Sack said.
It was this drastic change that helped revive the open, debate-centered format der Freitag had always thrived on, though.
“Everyone can blog on Freitag.de. Immediately when you come on the website you can be part of the community,” Müller said.
Because of their dedication to reader interaction, the website features readers’ commentary on the home page. Sack also said that the new open format has encouraged readers to engage the editors in their discussions.
The desire to make the readers part of this community was heavily reflected in the print redesign.
“On the title there’s always a red box on the right-hand side where we always have one quote from something the community has written,” Sack said.
Other color choices distinguish between editorial and partnered content. Dark blue signifies the piece has been written by the editorial team, and light blue signifies something written by their partners at the Guardian.
Because of its attention to strong visuals, der Freitag is best known for its sophisticated, simplistic design.
“You try to define something clear and use as little styles and formats as possible so it keeps simple and keeps something which can be done with low maintenance,” Müller said.
The entire newspaper uses a modified version of the font TheAntiqua, but its use of unique illustrations set it apart from the pack.
“I actually love [the different styles of illustrations]. We had a lot of discussion about how much we should try to find a certain style of illustration. I think it hasn’t changed a lot throughout the last two years. We’ve been doing more and more experimentation,” Sack said.
As der Freitag continues to expand its readership and build a dynamic online presence, the staff still has its sights set on the future. When asked if the website was going venture into the world of building an iPad application, Müller smiled and laughed.
“I’m dreaming of it.”