Saturday, April 22, 2006

Less Is Better at USA Today

As I have alluded, I am one of an apparently dying breed-- I am a big newspaper reader. It's not uncommon for me to be seen carrying mutiple sections around during the weekend, trying to finish off newspapers from the past week.

So, I'm finally catching up on my sports sections. The New York Times is a quick read every day (unless there is a feature that catches my interest -- which is rare, sadly -- or a Richard Sandomir byline), but the one I'm always saving for later is USA Today.

And I really like how they've reorganized their baseball coverage, which has taken a tack similar to what the Times
did in condensing their stock listings. In the past, coverage was always two and a half pages (not counting anything on the front sports page), but now it's down to a tidy two pages. Whether this was a cost-cutting move or something more, I'm not sure why this development has gone unnoticed at the nation's #1-circulation newspaper.

The focus before was always on the game recaps and they've done away with that. Instead, the new focus in on one "Game of the Day" for each league (each takes up a page) and then 50-words-or-less recaps of the other games. The box scores remain, as well as the team updates and there is an "Inside the NL/AL" feature that takes up about a sixth of the page.

I like this smart approach. It looks like the paper has finally realized that readers don't care as much about a story on last night's game, as readers want the essentials and closer looks at the sport as a whole and its personalities and quirks; they're "pushing" their readers to go to their site instead, which has the ubitiquous Associated Press recaps. It's not so much an innovation as streamlining everything down to the essentials and using the full power of the page.

Other newspapers should take note of this.

(Added note: Some might say USA Today has done too well-- they omitted the Colorado Rockies from their special section that looked at each team's chances this season three weeks back, but I digress.)

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