Globe and Mail unveils data-driven redesign

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO, on dropping from four sections to two and focusing on original content.

The Globe and Mail is undergoing a redesign that’s informed by its predictive content data tool, Sophi, which tracks the stories that perform best online.

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO at the Globe, said the tool has found that readers prefer to consume content from Globe staff over freelance or wire content, so those stories will get more attention in the paper’s globeAndMailRedesignnew look when it rolls out Dec. 1.

The part of the redesign that’s likely to make the most headlines is the reduced number of sections – down to two from four – that appear Monday to Thursday. Sports content will be rolled into Report on Business and arts will go into the front news section.

Crawley said these changes won’t mean a reduction in content. Rather, they build out the A and B sections of the paper where readers and advertisers are most interested.

“We don’t want to pad out skinny sections to fill out places where people aren’t reading,” he said. “We don’t expect print advertising revenue to have a dramatic revival. So we are adjusting to meet the difference.”

That will mean a reduction in the amount of syndicated and wire content that the paper runs in order to highlight the paper’s original reporting that readers are most likely to consume, he said.

The two-section design is modeled after the look of U.K. papers like The Daily Telegraph that follows a similar format. Each of the two new sections will have a maximum of 24 pages. For comparison, Sept. 7′s paper had a news section with 14 pages, arts had six, Report on Business was 12 pages and sports was eight pages.

The change in the number of physical sections is paired with later deadlines for content, a move that could see more timely stories appearing in the morning paper (reviews of the previous night’s theatre opening, for example).

In addition to the changes in how the paper is organized, the Globe is also taking the width of the paper down by an inch, which will result in millions of dollars in savings at the printer, said Crawley.

Overall, the redesign aims for a cleaner look, bigger pictures and adjustments in the way stories are grouped together, with columns and stories that cover the same topics now laid out on the same spread rather than separated within the paper.

The redesign is the first the Globe has undergone since 2010, and Crawley said it is a “reaffirmation to anyone that still doubts that print plays a part in what we do.” The Globe‘s last redesign came two years after the paper famously signed a 18-year, $1.7 billion deal with Transcontinental to print its papers through 2026. Asked how he feels about the deal now, Crawley said it still makes sense, noting that the company’s forecasts see print contributing to the bottom line when that contract is up.

Declining ad revenue and jumps in digital subscriptions (Crawley said the Globe is 6,000 digital subscriptions ahead of its 2017 target) have resulted in revenues from readers paying for content exceeding ad revenue, Crawley said. In August, traditionally one of the slowest months of the year for ad revenue, subscription revenue doubled that from ads.

Numbers provided by the Globe show that, as of this week, the Globe and Mail has 143,000 physical newspaper subscribers and 7,600 Globe2Go ePaper subscribers. Online, the Globe had 68,600 digital-only subscribers (60,700 digital-only subscriptions for Globe Unlimited and 7,900 for GlobeInvestorGold.com).

While Crawley does have the tagline “passionately print” in the Globe‘s redesign deck, he said he knows that big growth is going to come from digital. He wants to increase the 25% portion of content that’s currently behind the Globe’s paywall, since Sophi data shows readers are more likely to subscribe for original Globe content. (One recent and surprising boost in subscribers came from the Globe‘s retail reporter Marina Strauss’ coverage of the clash between Tim Hortons and its franchisees.)

While print redesigns might come along once every seven years, Crawley said the Globe‘s website is constantly in redesign mode, adding the company is releasing new Android and iOS apps this fall that will be faster and easier to navigate than the last versions.