In 2004, Dubai saw the launch of its first afternoon daily, The Emirates Evening Post, which enjoyed “moderate success,” according to its marketing and sales agents. In December 2005, the paper was totally revamped. The Post went tabloid, changed the entire design and the treatment of stories. As a result, work methods had to change and the staff had to get used to the new concept and develop new skills.
“It was conveyed to me that the new newspaper would be significantly different from the existing, not just in shape but in spirit and tone and, to some extent, content,” says Ron Reason, the American newspaper designer charged with the re-launch.
The priority of the newspaper was to ensure a more reader-friendly structure and layout. The Post decided to become “slicker” with shorter stories. The long-term vision of the daily is to have a unique position as a commuter’s paper with the opening of the UAE’s rail network scheduled for 2008.
Reason created the new design from the ground-up: front-page, typography, color and navigational structures. New changes demanded new ways of working for a maximum of efficiency, what forced the staff to adapt the new concept and methods.
“I insisted on improved planning, communication, and collaboration among reporters-editors-paginators to make a less stressful process while more creative and efficient at the same time,” says Reason.
A tool for improved coordination and planning has been a tailored-designed style manual created by Reason.
Editor-in-Chief Saira Menezes says the manual sets a blueprint that all departments can follow. “Now, with the attending design and copy guidelines in place, the desk and graphics team work closely with each other; and often times, even serve as checks for the other,” she says
The re-launched paper, with its new design and approach, also demanded the reporters to adapt to the new style, much more visual and with shorter stories. Editorial consultant Aloke Thakore is guiding the newsroom.
He has provided the staff with training in three different areas: reporting, desk editing and photojournalism. However, The Post, as many English-language newspapers in the region, has a multicultural staff. Training focused on the new skills to be developed and also in adapting to the cultural environment in Dubai.
Thakore is also working on a style book for the paper, which contains not only linguistic advice but also the policy of the daily. “It is about of building up the standards of the company,” he says.
The re-launch was reinforced by an integrated marketing media campaign. It also included sponsorship of a show featuring popular Indian actors since the target audience is mostly the huge South-Asian community in the UAE.
In terms of advertising, the paper is witnessing steady increase although it remains low, says Publisher Qassim Mohamed Yousuf. He expects that it will take him a year or two to do better figures.
“Advertising has gone far better than in the broadsheet period. This increase in a period of two-three months is really encouraging. We expect to keep strongly increasing in the last three or four months,” says Shoeb Ansari, Sales Director.
Since an ad of the same size has more impact in the compact format, the paper has, surprisingly, increased its prices. “We are very flexible. We encourage advertisers to buy full-page ads which carry discounts,” says Ansari.
But the paper also looks for small budgets. “Smaller sizes that would make 1/6 of the page in the broadsheet, become 1/4 of the page in a tabloid format, so the visual impact is bigger. This is something good for small advertisers,” says Ansari.
Another advantage for them lies in the fact of being an afternoon daily. “Advertisers can come at 10 am and their ad will be published the very same day. It is very useful for small business targeting clients on shopping time as well as for festivals and different events,” says Ansari.