Hashtag: The Age Gets a Makeover

0 Posted by - 14/03/2013 - Blogs

Everyone knows by now that the weekday editions of The Age (and the Sydney Morning Herald) have shifted to what Fairfax has called a “compact” format. And I have to say, I really like the new look.

In the first ever tabloid edition Andrew Holden, Editor-in-Chief, wrote that the change was a practical step into the future.

“Our sister publication, The Australian Financial Review, has already demonstrated that quality journalism works effectively in the smaller format. Major quality broadsheets overseas have also made the change, and readers of The Age have been telling us for some time that the old format doesn’t suit the modern workday.”

Indeed, smaller newspapers are easier to read on public transport. The elbowing and paper-folding will now be left to readers of The Australian. Speaking of which, a few weeks back the Weekend Australian devoted one third of page three to an ad that said: “As Fairfax shrinks we keep getting bigger and better.” Bigger? Is Murdoch going print The Australian in a larger format? Nope. How about better? Well, we all know the answer to that one. I mean, back in January, they couldn’t even spell the American President’s name correctly in the first line of yet another ‘scientific’ and ‘plausible’ denial of climate change:

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While Fairfax gave their websites a clean, fresh makeover, The Herald Sun was trying to coax more readers by giving away AFL DVDs. Nice.

Something else worth mentioning is The Age’s larger font. I mean, let’s face it – when it comes to our eyesight Australia’s population isn’t getting any younger. The clean, easy-to-read format also reflects what The Age is aiming for – articles that inform without any of the unnecessary bells and whistles. It’s almost ironic how in an age of technological change people just want to go back to the basics.

The transition hasn’t been without its critics though. A friend on Facebook lamented that folding a broadsheet was her only talent. Another person said the tabloid format now reflected the content. I totally reject that last criticism, though – the journalists at The Age have clearly been stockpiling their best journalism in order to make the new format seem more in-depth and analytical than ever. Page one’s feature story for the first edition was an exclusive investigative piece about the state’s biggest civil class action

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(into what actually caused the Kilmore East fire on Black Saturday). Besides, broadsheet lovers still have the weekend papers to cradle and croon over.

People who understand journalism realise that a change in format does not necessarily affect the quality of content. Just because the weekday Age is now the same size as The Herald Sun doesn’t mean every reporter at Fairfax has suddenly morphed into a News Limited drone. Good journalism has survived across multiple platforms, and it will continue to do so.

I know people are upset about the decline of newspapers. I sure am. Heck, I want to go into an industry where, in 2011, 52 entry-level jobs were offered by the major newspapers and wire services. (In comparison there were almost 5000 journalism school enrolments nationwide in the same year.) But change can be good. So far the internet has proved itself as a pretty awesome place. The New York Times and The Guardian have done some amazing things online, and it is only a matter of time before Australian newspapers lift their game or get left behind. The changes at The Age are just part of a larger process.

So unless you’re a freelance writer whose articles have been shaved in order to accommodate the new look, stop complaining about The Age’s new format. Or else I’ll make your face a compact edition.

Broede Carmody

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2 Comments

  • Soren Frederiksen 14/03/2013 - 6:58 pm

    I agree with much of this, but the criticism of the Hun is a bit odd.

    Truth is, while the Herald Sun gave *their* website a slick makeover six, seven, eight months ago, The Age was publishing in a silly format, on an ugly website and cutting jobs to keep afloat.

    Now, as The Age starts the year with a small size and staff, The Hun has cash to flog footy films — oh, and they’re the ones with egg on their face?

    And this sneering about football: What should they have been giving away? A new magazine, maybe: “Deep and Meaningful: The Hun’s Guide to Dance, Poetry and Other Arty Shit You Don’t Care About”. They know their readers. They cater for their readers, not for fashionable folk who look down on their readers.

    The Age is a great newspaper that’s made a good decision. But it comes after years of bad decisions: Why wasn’t the huge, costly and ridiculous format scrapped sooner? Why was the website left to fossilize for so long? Why weren’t cuts made quicker, so they wouldn’t have to be so drastic?

    You make it sound like Fairfax are these clever clogs, while News Limited flails stupidly without direction. The new format isn’t a masterstroke, it’s competence — and it might have come too late to keep them in the game.

  • Ben Westcott 19/03/2013 - 2:14 pm

    I’d just like to add in addition to the previous post, the Herald Sun has increased its readership over the last year, something very few papers in Australia have accomplished recently. They must be doing something right.