Based on your input, Star Tribune is evolving

  • Article by: NANCY BARNES
  • Star Tribune
  • October 24, 2011 - 4:55 PM

Any good business leader knows that it's vital to listen to your customers; that's equally important for a news organization. Readers' information needs and tastes can shift over time, depending on what is going on in their lives and the world at large, and we need to adjust to meet those needs.

For much of the last year, we've been seeking readers' input in all sorts of ways. The publisher, other newspaper executives, and newsroom editors have spent many hours behind two-way mirrors listening to focus groups dissect the paper's design, front page, photos, the quality of the content overall.

We've talked to readers about their online reading habits and their use of mobile phones. Working with a research company, we have tested different looks to the front page, and have called hundreds of readers to ask questions about their content and design preferences.

As a result of that research and other work we have conducted internally, we're making some changes to the Star Tribune, which you will see beginning today. Some of the changes are immediately visible: The Star Tribune nameplate, or "flag," is larger and centered.

We've redesigned the content promotion boxes, which appear above the flag, and we've made the daily weather information and date much more prominent, as readers suggested. Other changes are more subtle: Over time, we are eliminating some softer news features from the front page, in favor of harder news.

We are also adding new content throughout the paper, to refresh some of our most popular sections. You'll see a region page in the Twin Cities+Region section, including a roundup of news from a wide range of cities and communities.

And inside the A section, we're introducing a new standing science page that we've been soft-testing for the last few weeks.

Our Sunday travel section will feature different content, including a standing column from Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg, a page of information to help consumers with the realities of modern-day travel and a feature that will focus on the Midwest.

In the Monday business section, we've added the "Ultimate Insider" page, featuring a mini-profile of an executive on the move, as well as news regarding promotions, hirings and honors within the Twin Cities community.

We have also restored the Business Forum, a weekly essay on a timely issue from someone in the business community. Meanwhile, the commercial real-estate features will move from Monday's business section to a new page in Friday's section focusing on growth and development.

On Thursday, the Taste section will highlight a new healthy-family feature, with a recipe, in response to the national attention on eating and living well. We are also adding more content on how to find food locally, and a cookbook review.

Finally, we plan to put more color in the paper on a daily basis, with an emphasis on the A section, the Sports section and our features sections. This will vary from day to day, depending on our press capacity, but we expect to add color to as many as eight pages a day.

Some of the colors used in our design will change, too, based on your feedback. We will no longer use blue as a signature color; instead you will see a pale shade of yellow used to highlight content, such as our daily news rail, and we'll bring back a shade of green as our signature color throughout the newspaper.

We know there are a lot of media companies competing for your time and attention; we want you to know that we keep our readers' input in mind every day as we look for ways to improve our content and your reading experience.

You can share feedback with me at or write me at 425 Portland Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55488.

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Nancy Barnes is editor of the Star Tribune.

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