Well, this is number 4 of our new format. We have “successfully” moved from a Tab-sized newspaper to a Broadsheet.
Why the quote marks? Because I’m a pretty hard task master when it comes to measuring success. Just ask any of the poor souls who have to work with me.
On many levels, the move was a huge success. Feedback from our advertisers has been overwhelmingly positive, with just a few exceptions. Of those few, most were still in a “wait-and-see” mode. Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, just wait-and-see…
Reaction from you, our faithful readers, has been mixed. The first week -- more negative than positive. Week Two -- about equal. Week Three -- much more positive, even from some who didn’t like it in Week One. Common comments have been: “You are getting a lot more in the paper.” “I’m getting used to the ‘feel’ of it.”
My family, friends and bosses are just shaking their head at my agonizing and are ready for me to just embrace it and move on.
I’m getting there. Problem is my mother.
Mother had a lot of sayings, and she used them often. Her “momisms” are legendary in our family. They ranged from the usual: “Because I said so,” to the off-beat: “People in Hell want ice water, and they aren’t getting it either.”
One of her favorite was “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s been my problem with the switch for Blount Today. I like solving problems. I just don’t like fixing things that aren’t broken.
When the decision about the change in the press size at the News Sentinel came down to us Niche publication customers, all our options at KNS Printing were carefully presented to us. I also did some checking with other printers, just to make sure my Big Sister wasn’t trying to pull anything on me. (Another of my mother’s sayings: “Love your family, but keep an eye on them.”)
The decision was ours, and our team turned it upside down, inside-out and sideways. I crunched numbers -- not my favorite thing -- until my head spun. Would our advertisers be willing to pay more so Blount Today could print somewhere else and keep our current format? What if we started charging extra for color? Reduced page count? Shrunk the ads to fit in a smaller tab size? Stacked ads on top of each other to create more open space in the new Tab size?
I played “paper dolls” with layouts, cutting out ads, stories and pictures and placing them on all different sizes of pages. And, in the back of my mind was the nagging feeling that if I didn’t go to the new size with KNS Printing now, I was just delaying the inevitable with another printer. Industry prediction is that you won’t find many newspapers on a 50-inch web (our old size) by the end of the year.
So we took the leap. We fixed what wasn’t broke.
Everything I tried to console myself with seemed to dissolve. “We can keep the one picture on the front and still look like Blount Today.” That’s not working out too well, and we’re working on a new cover look. “It will end confusion between us and our competition.” Last week, they went Broadsheet, too. “We’ll have more room for pictures because the pages are longer.” Well, that’s true, but we are having a hard time getting a handle on what’s too much, too big, too little, too crowded.
As I toss-and-turn and beat my head against the desk, one of my sons put it all in perspective. Brett works at Sun Up Diner, so he sees Blount Today every week and doesn’t hesitate to give me feedback. He knows how passionate I am about our newspaper and sometimes calls it my “third son,” so we enjoy talking about the paper.
His analysis reminded me of a Mommy-moment from years ago.
I was working away at my desk at the News Sentinel when the front desk called. Seems I had someone claiming to be my son at the desk, and could he come up?
“Sure,” I said, surprised and delighted by an unexpected afternoon visit. “Which son?”
“He says he’s your first-born,” came the reply.
When Trey walked into the newsroom and back to my desk that beautiful Spring day, I screamed.
He was bald.
Well, practically bald. He had gone for a “haircut” and decided to shave his head.
He was grinning from ear-to-ear, as I slowly went into shock.
“Why?” was all I could choke out.
He shrugged. “Something different. Don’t you love it?”
He knew I didn’t. But he just kept grinning, and then sat down. “Are you okay now?” he asked. “Because I have something to tell you.”
That’s never a good thing. I took a deep breath and asked, “What else?”
“Brett got his head shaved, too.”
I screamed again.
For awhile, I couldn’t look at them without gasping. I never loved it, but I came to like it.
Did it change the way I felt about my sons? Of course not. They were still Trey and Brett, with all their positives, negatives, joys and tribulations. The haircuts were just cosmetic. The children were still the same.
So, as I agonized to Brett over the new format of Blount Today, whining about my worry and sleepless nights, his response should not have surprised me.
“Is it still the same paper? Are you still putting the same stuff in it? The stuff everybody likes?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “Of course, but…”
“Go to bed,” he answered, and hung up.
Bald or hairy, Tab or Broadsheet, I guess it doesn’t matter all that much what size Blount Today is.
It’s still Blount Today. I still love it. I hope you will, too.
Sherri Gardner Howell