Take a look at this rack of newspapers and magazines at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport taken yesterday.
Which of the magazines or the papers do you think the casual buyer will pick? And how do you think he makes his decision?
If you think the buyer would pick Newsweek and the Jakarta Globe, you are absolutely right.
Buyers are usually attracted to a product, or any product for that matter, first of all by its design.
Newsweek has a very effective cover with the word, BUY, in caps and big, bold type on a bright yellow background while the Jakarta Globe looks a lot more classy than The Jakarta Post.
Colour experts know that yellow is a very powerful colour which can be spotted from a long way away. The reader’s eye will always be attracted to the colour no matter what. And besides, the headline is very simple, clear and powerful especially because of the current economic crisis.
So despite being tucked behind BusinessWeek and Time magazines and slightly overlapped by the bold red cover of Fortune, Newsweek still stands out by the sheer power of yellow.
As for the Jakarta Globe, a recently-launched broadsheet in Jakarta designed by James de Vries, it is clearly streets ahead of the boring design of the Jakarta Post although it looks like a cross between the UK’s Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, down to the space between the lead headline and the start of the story.
The Post looks distinctly old-fashioned with the badly done typewriter-style masthead. Placed next to the Globe, it tells the reader “we’re old, tired and boring”. I wonder why editors at the Post refused to change the masthead when it recently redesigned.
The Globe’s dual-colour masthead, on the other hand, says it is a more modern paper than the Post. The colour skybox above the masthead adds another dimension.
As for the content, it has fallen into the classic new newspaper trap. With acres of space due to the lack of advertising, it has resorted to large photos (sometimes bloody awful ones) and very lengthy stories. More often than not, there are three or four stories to one blank page!
There is little by way of other story-telling devices which research shows help readers understand stories a lot better, and originality of ideas. There is a daily Eye Witness page with HUGE (and I mean huge) photos, a rip-off from NRC Next, The Guardian and lots of other papers. On Saturday, there were two pages devoted to Eye Witness.
And oh, the name Eye Witness has been used to death.
I said to someone in Jakarta I would give the Jakarta Globe two years max to get a steady stream of revenue before the billionaire owner James Riady pulls the plug because no matter how deep one’s pocket is, there comes a time when commonsense (which isn’t very common) takes over from pride (which apparently is why he wanted to have an English-language paper, rather than altruistic reasons).
But I hope the Globe makes it because the newspaper industry in Indonesia badly needs a shake-up.