Tom West: New Budgeteer format designed for greater impact

This is an exciting issue for us at the Budgeteer News because we are converting the paper from what those in the newspaper business call "broadsheet" to "compact."...

This is an exciting issue for us at the Budgeteer News because we are converting the paper from what those in the newspaper business call "broadsheet" to "compact."

Some people still refer to the compact format as a "tab," but tabs conjure up images of sensationalistic yellow journalism or National Inquirer topics like two-headed goats or Hillary Clinton's close relationship with alien beings.

Here at the Budgeteer, we are strictly about local news, so we'll only cover a two-headed goat if it lives in southern St. Louis County, and while we sometimes wonder about the origins of a few local residents, Hillary is unlikely to get a mention unless she visits them here.

I know that newspaper readers have deeply ingrained habits, and we trust you can still find your way through this paper. We've taken care to keep all the features that you've been enjoying in the past. We've also kept the same typefaces for now so that it looks like last week's Budgeteer except for the size. Check the index on the front page if you can't find what you are looking for.

Some of you will undoubtedly ask why we did this. The answer is simple: impact.


As you turn the pages, even though ads from the same businesses and news of the same variety that were in last week are in this week's issue, you will notice different things. Because of the smaller page, ads that may have been missed on a larger page suddenly have more impact -- that is, they will be seen by more readers. A quarter page ad in last week's Budgeteer now dominates a page in the new compact format.

Combined with the fact that we have increased delivery by 5,500 homes in the past year, we have a great story to tell our advertisers, who are the lifeblood of any newspaper -- particularly those delivered free like the Budgeteer News. The newspaper you are holding has the largest circulation of any general-interest weekly newspaper in Minnesota.

The compact format is not unique. The New York Post and Chicago Sun-Times have been compact for years. In London, England, the compact format is actually the most popular size newspaper. Commuters on crowded buses and trains prefer it. While that isn't an issue with the home-delivered Budgeteer, the format, where it has been tried lately, has been popular with today's readers.

This issue is particularly thick because in the middle is a pull-out section on next weekend's Spirit Valley Days celebration. If you haven't done so already, my advice would be to remove that section of this issue and read it separately. (But don't ignore it. The celebration has several new events. West Duluth is shaping up as the place to have fun later this week.)

We've tried to reorganize the paper in a way that readers will find efficient. The opinion section, which has been one of the most popular sections in the Budgeteer in recent years, will now be a four-page pull-out section. After removing the Spirit Valley Days section, simply remove the middle four pages of those that remain, and, voilá, you will have an instant four-page opinion section. If you have two newspaper readers in your household, you can share your Budgeteer just as you have in the past.

Now look at the remaining center spread. Each week, the Budgeteer is running a photo story on a community event. Diana Blom, an intern from UMD, has been taking the photos for us under the old format, and will continue doing so under the new. You can find her work on that center spread.

The Classified Ad section will hold down the back of the paper, with the Sports and Recreation section immediately in front of it.

The Budgeteer tried the compact format back in the late 1980s, and switched back after a short run because of problems with press configurations. We don't expect press problems this time. Regardless, I believe that today's readers are ready to embrace the new format.


We know that readers are busy people and that we are competing with a number of other attractions for your time. We think you will find the Budgeteer easy to navigate once you get used to it.

Undoubtedly, we will need to tweak a few things in the first couple of weeks. Please let me know what you think. My e-mail address is or you can drop me a phone message at 723-1207.

Tom West is the editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News. He may be reached by telephone at 723-1207 or by e-mail at .

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