#15: Front Page Power

(Featured image credited to http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5460/7415396442_9a72aacd21_o.jpg)

Front pages are everywhere around us.  On websites.  On newsstands.  On weekly and daily newspapers.  Front pages draw our attention and magnetize us to the promises they offer. Let’s briefly look into what makes an efficient and attention-grabbing front page both digitally and in print.

Front Page Essentials

Relevance.  A front page is relevant and timely.  It shouts out a current subject or focus to the world.

Readability.  A front-page must be read at a great distance and yet still make sense when close to the reader.  Its text should be understandable and clear while still presenting the topic at hand.

Captivating imagery.  Its image — or the imagery involved in it — must be powerful and interesting to draw in even non-regular readers.

Content Factors

Some specific rules dictate what shows up on a front page and what doesn’t.  There are a few types of content that dominate publications both digital and print:

  • Service content.  The front page features news that is timely and relevant in the service area (i.e., a New York City-focused paper or website will make use of a story that is immediately important to the intended audience/area of service);
  • Celebrity content.  A remarkable (or attention-getting story) about a celebrity, as it is often more interesting than what happens to an everyday person, can quickly grab readers with sensationalism;
  • Exclusive content.  The newspaper or website is publishing information first, and this content is unique to the market

Psychological Factors

Front pages are made specifically to gather interest and readers.  As with anything else in life, psychology plays a role by shaping what what we think we want to see and what we hope to see.  We need to be interested and yet promised something new; we desire to be engaged by color but comforted by clever wording.  Presentation, text and picture prominence, and focal points can all aid in this endeavor.

Presentation.  How is the front page generally presented?  What are the aspects of its balance, symmetry (or asymmetry), color, and design?  Inviting presentation can draw in readers, while poor presentation without clarity and focus can alienate them or turn them away.  Consider the various qualities of composition as general standards for intriguing front pages.

Text and Picture Prominence.  Consider the following image taken from the front page of CNN.com in 2011:

The digital front page of CNN.com, May 2011.

Note the prominence of the text and how it draws your eye, as well as the picture below.  These seem to dominate most of the page and a great deal of the readers’ attention.  Whether in digital or printed formats, small changes in text sizes and picture placements can deeply alter the meaning and perception of a front page.

Likewise, focal points — areas to which your eyes are immediately drawn — are painstakingly hashed out to ensure that a varying audience, regardless of their interest, bias, or dedication to the agency, will be drawn to the articles.

Check out the following front pages from newspapers throughout the 20th century.

Give It A Shot

Examine the dispalyed front pages and discuss their advantages and disadvantages.  What are their strengths and their inherent weaknesses?  Go through each of them, observe them for a minute or two each, and mark down your simple observations.  How do you feel when you see them?  What do they remind you of?  Do you know what they’re about?  What do you think they’re about?

What makes a front page powerful? Discuss openly afterward.

Vocabulary to Remember

Relevance, readability, captivating imagery, service content, celebrity content, exclusive content, presentation, text and picture prominence, focal points

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the most memorable front page you have ever seen?  Why?
  2. What kind of front pages appeal to you and your interests?
  3. What aspects of a front page immediately turn you away from the product?