Little ado over Orlando's redo
The response could mean any of the following:
:: 99.95% of the readers like the colorful overhaul, which would be great news for the newspaper.
:: 99.95% of the readers didn’t notice, which not only would insult the Sentinel’s editors but also put in place the industry kibitzers (including me) who have been second-guessing the project for the last week.
:: 99.95% of the readers don’t care, which would be the most alarming outcome of all.
In all likelihood, the actual answer is a combination of the above.
But the evident equanimity inspired by the revamp suggests that harried consumers may be more personally detached from their newspapers today than ever before, regarding them as no more than another fleeting blur in the ever-accelerating cascade of media. Thus, a fresh splash of pink on the front page may have no more impact than an incoming Twitter, a new text message, a hot Digg, a Facebook poke or the latest Fox News "Alert!"
As of the close of business today, 106 of the readers of the Sentinel called, emailed or otherwise expressed their dissatisfaction with a widely watched makeover that was billed as a precursor of the revamps planned for each of the newspapers owned by Tribune Co. With 220k in daily circulation, the critics amount to 0.0482% of the Sentinel’s total audience.
The complaints, which of course reflect only the subset of readers motivated enough to speak up, outpaced by nearly six-fold the 18 congratulatory comments recorded by the newspaper, according to Bonita Burton, the assistant managing editor who directed the redesign. She adds that eight subscriptions were canceled because of the remake and two were acquired.
Assuming no major delayed reaction to the new look materializes in the coming days, the most logical working hypothesis has to be that you can radically remake a newspaper overnight without generating anything more than a mild or indifferent response.
While the Sentinel’s managers can take comfort in knowing they evidently have done little harm, a corollary conclusion appears to be that reskinning a newspaper, in and of itself, is not likely to boost business, either.
Last and most unsettling, the casual reaction in Orlando suggests that newspapers may have far less passionate constituencies than we would like to think.