Fresh look, same community papers

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Change isn’t always easy. But in the news media industry, innovation is part of survival. So a September 2012 email from my boss, Appen Media Group publisher Ray Appen, resonated with me. If we want to fight the perception that newspapers are outmoded, he wrote, we need to look and act like we’re not outmoded.

Ray proposed a redesign for our weekly papers, and I wholeheartedly agreed. We initiated the process with a cross-departmental meeting and discussed the history of our products, our current strengths and areas for improvement, and of course, the details of what a redesign could look like.

Our ad manager, Lynn Danson, made one of my favorite observations from that meeting: Our papers are tri-folded in clear plastic bags and thrown onto driveways, so we need to think about what our potential readers first see when they pick up those bags. The front page needs to be inviting and compelling.

The meeting helped us whittle down our ideas into a few main goals:

A fresh look that’s cleaner and more organized;

Consistent styles for news graphics and company branding;

And a reimagined front page with modernized flags (paper names), strong photography and exciting teases to more stories inside.

We then went through a months-long process of creating new front pages, reinventing our news graphics and formatting, and writing a stylebook for our weekly papers. As associate publisher, I’ll be working more with the news department to plan compelling front-page packages. Because of my adamant belief in practicing what you preach, in the coming months I hope to go out in the field and snap a cover shot or two myself.

Despite what you may have heard about newspapers, we love the Internet here at Appen. The web provides us with clever new ways to reach our audience, and we’ll continue to take advantage of that by tying in multimedia with our weekly print products. We’ll publish weekly polls and comments from our websites and social media pages, and we’ll always let you know when you can go online to watch a video or find more photos from an event.

Ultimately, we made all these changes—from the boldly colored front-page flags to the tiniest graphic in the back of the paper—for the benefit of our audience. As a small, family-owned company, our staff is passionate about serving and informing the communities of North Fulton and Forsyth. We hope you find our weekly papers even more relevant, now and in the coming months as we further hone our long-term goals. And we hope that when you pick up your paper at the end of the driveway, you’re excited to pull it out of the bag.