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Field Notes – Furniture (Metro NY)

Readership Note:

Style decisions that work for one group of readers may not work for another. I want to set the context of my fieldnotes to the Metro’s audience. The Metro markets itself to “the aspirational, educated, young professional.” Ninety-five percent of the Metro’s circulation is within NYC, concentrated particularly in Manhattan. The Metro has nearly twice the circulation of its closest competitor (the New York Times) in Manhattan. Ninety percent of the Metro’s stories come from its own staff, and it puts an emphasis on local news. Finally, the Metro seeks to present all news in a “quick, friendly fromat.” It is designed to be readable during the average commute.

Nameplate: Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 12.08.56 PM

There are a few factors to consider in the Metro’s nameplate: the typeface, the use of color and the graphic treatment of the “o.”

•Metro uses a bold san serif typeface with almost no variation in stroke thickness. Yet there are some subtle typeface characteristics that work to make it distinct/recognizable. The tails of the “e” and “t,” set at an angle give the nameplate some dynamism. And there is a chunk missing from the nose of the “e” that catches the eye as well. I think the typeface choice works for the readership. San serif typefaces feel more modern. I also think the decision not to capitalize the “m” comes off well. It breaks from traditional publications, which tend to capitalize the first letter of each word in the title and use typefaces with intricate finishing strokes.

•I also think Metro uses color to good effect. The white text on a green background is distinct, recognizable at a distance. It would be easy to pick out on a news stand, even if you were too far away to read the name. The very subtle gradient in the backdrop adds another, necessary layer. It gives the reader’s mind something more to think about without being a distraction (due to its subtlety).

•The graphic treatment of the “o” gives nameplate a sense of dimension without adding another layer to the text. It evokes a globe, an image that gives the paper an air of authority.

•The one warning I’d offer is that the style choices used in the nameplate could make the metro seem like a tabloid, many of which also use bold, san serif typefaces and color elements.

Cutlines:Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 4.06.23 PM

Metro writes its cutlines as a reverse (white type on a black backdrop). What this does is help block off the photo and texts as a single graphic element. It’s useful to be able to locate the cutline at a glance. However, I think that overall this is a bad design decision. Reverses can be hard to read, especially in smaller type. Metro envisions its audience reading during their commute. If a reverse is hard to read under regular circumstances, then it is even more so rattling around on the train or the subway. If Metro is sold on this format, it should increase the font size or at least the line height.

Teaser:Teaser

Metro has an interesting take on the teaser. Like a magazine, Metro has a cover with the publication’s name, a graphic element that takes up most of the space, and cover lines. Since the cover lines do the job that teasers do in a more typical newspaper, Metro uses its teasers to direct its readers online. It’s a really good idea.

•For one thing as a graphic element, it creates a block that is not text heavy, breaking up the first page, making it less intimidating or overwhelming.

•Furthermore, it is experientially a very good move. Metro expects that its readers get through a copy on the way to work. But once at work, what do people do. They fire up their computers, organize their desks, get set up to do the day’s work. Maybe they check a couple of favorite websites before getting down to business. If something in the Metro teaser catches their interest they may check it out during this prep time. It is, I think, a great way to keep people engaged with Metro’s product for longer.

•As for the execution of the teaser, there is good and bad. The page one teaser uses the same green as the nameplate, a good bit of consistency for branding. My concern is that the element as a whole might make the Metro feel a little petty, or tabloid-like. The stories being teased in this example are all very light and a bit gossipy. And the background image (of a woman – I’m guessing Lady Gaga – singing) just doesn’t work for a publication that describes its readership as “sophisticated” and “aspirational.”

Bylines and Credit Lines:Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 4.50.03 PM

There’s an inconsistency issue with the bylines in the Metro.

•For some stories the reporter’s name is given along with a photo and email address. For others only a name is given. I don’t have a very developed position on this, but my initial thought is that there aught to be consistency. If I read a story I don’t care much about which has an email address listed, then I read another story I want to write the reporter about but which doesn’t list the reporter’s email address, I’m going to be put off.

•I also think it would be a good idea for Metro to list Twitter handles in its bylines. I’m the world’s foremost Twitter detractor, but I think Metro’s younger readership, reading issues on the way to work, are more likely to Tweet at reporters on the way to work than to compose an email at some point during the day.

•Other than those two issues, I think the bylines work pretty well. Since all the stories are VERY short, I think it’s a good decision to put the bylines at the end. You don’t want too many words before your story when it’s only a couple hundred words long. The reporter’s name us in bold and all-caps, which I also think works. It gives some good variation without being a distraction.

Boxes:

Metro uses a couple types of boxes in a few different ways. Its best use is a light gray box labeled with specific story topics or locations. It works because it gives the reader information about the story before he even reads the headline. It also works well to break up the page into digestible sections. This is all very good for a paper that seeks to be a quick read. I have just two small criticisms of the boxes. One is that in other formats those types of boxes indicate the story inside it is of lesser importance, which I don’t think is the case in the Metro. The other issue is that the other format you find these types of boxes in is a textbook format. They say, “Take a break from the dense, boring reading I’ve been doing.” You don’t want this connotation in your newspaper.

Reverses:Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 5.35.20 PM

Metro uses reverses in a few instances, generally to good effect. The nameplate and cutlines, both of which I’ve already discussed, are reverses. Others are used in tags for certain stories telling the reader where the story took place, or what its topic is. Finally, reverses are used to mark certain types of content within a story, such as an important quote or a brief review. These last two uses work particularly well. They pop. They catch the eye and direct the reader’s attention in a logical way. They also help break up the page into digestible sections.

Jumpline:

Jumplines are important to mention in regard to the Metro because it has no jumplines. All of the stories in the metro are VERY short, no longer than a couple hundred words. Personally, the length of story bothers me. I think the length keeps important information from getting into a story. Yet my feelings on story length are neither here nor there. In terms of design, I think having each story in only one place is quite nice. At first glance, readers know exactly how much time and attention they’ll have to put into a story. Once again, Metro does a very nice job of breaking its pages into digestible chunks.

Folio:Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 9.21.16 PM

Metro’s folio only shows up on pages that have editorial content. I’m not sure what standard practice is, but this seems a good idea to me since I wouldn’t think people would care what page which advertisement is on.

•Metro uses the folio as an opportunity to brand itself by placing its nameplate at the folio’s left edge. The folio’s main purpose is to drive readers online, which it does a good job of. The website is typed in a bold, green font and is followed by a graphic element that looks like a cursor clicking on the Metro’s logo (the globe-looking “o”). Metro also does well to box the folio in the same gray color it boxes some of it’s stories in. This sets the folio apart as its own distinct element without drawing too much attention to it.

•I’ve two criticisms of the folio. First is that the date is tiny and crunched together with another copy of the Metro’s website typed out. The extra website reference is redundant information, and it forces the date to be printed in a tiny font size. I often look for the date of a newspaper to make sure I’m reading the most current edition, and I assume others do the same. Metro should get rid of the redundant information and make the date bigger.

•My second criticism is that the page number doesn’t align with the right margin. Instead it’s tucked in by about the width of another digit. This places the page number a bit uncomfortably close to the website URL for me. It causes me to briefly consider whether the page number is the page number at all or a bit of other information. Metro aught to move the website URL bit over to the left and align the page number with the right margin, making them two distinct pieces of information and removing the tension that the unaligned page number creates.

Wraps and Skews:Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 9.30.38 PM

Metro mostly uses wraps and skews in the entertainment sections of the paper. I think newspapers generally take more artistic liberties in the entertainment or life sections, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some more creative spreads in the news section as well. Metro’s use of skews works well in places and not well in others. Here’s a good example and a bad one.Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 9.30.54 PM

•The good: The fins of the football-shark-bomb photo creates awesome geometric shapes in the negative space where they cut into the text without getting in the way of the text itself. It’s satisfying to look at.

•The bad: The Daft Punk photo does it just about wrong. The text doesn’t wrap around the helmet well enough. It doesn’t create a nice curve at all. It also creates a number of consecutive lines made up of a single word. And the splitting of the word “dramatic” with a hyphen just makes me cringe. It is an ugly, ugly rag.

Rules (OK I’m really going to talk about the margins, but I’m putting it under “rules” because that was one of the terms I had to choose from):

Metro sets its rules thin at the top of the page and to the outside and thicker at the bottom and to the inside of the page. This puts the content high and to the outside. This works because it keeps the content away from the fold. It also gives a satisfying sense of symmetry since the top and outside rules are the same width as are the bottom and inside rules. I do think I prefer leaving a  larger rule at the top than the bottom, though, because it works to link the content to following pages (since we read from top to bottom). One more thing to mention on the rule is that the box around the folio breaks the inside rule. This works out well because it draws the pages on either side of the fold together without sacrificing any useful information.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 9.49.48 PM

Cameron Young

One Comment

  1. Again, very smart writing and insight. … One thing to watch out for: adhering to the requirements. You were supposed to define the term, then talk about your publication’s treatment of that element. Also, you need an example of each element you define/discuss. … I’m also a little perplexed by your margin/rule entry and it’s not clear to me that you understand what a rule is. It is a line, can vary in width and length, and is used to help divide/organize elements on a page.

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