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digital audience engagement

Super Bowl spikes HD demand: how can newspapers get in the HD game?

08 February 2010 · by Don Oldham

In a world of HD expectations, how can newspapers hope to engage customers?

Remote control HDTV An audience of 100 million watched the Indianapolis Colts battle the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Most viewed the game on a large flat-screen TV and more than ever on an HDTV. This marked the fifth straight year that the Super Bowl spiked the sales of HDTVs. Last year, more than 2.5 million HDTV units were sold before the Super Bowl. Fans want a hi-def realistic viewing experience at home and even at the game. Sun Life Stadium, the site of this year's game, is outfitted with more than 2,000 flat-screen HDTV monitors. Next year's site, the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, boasts the world's largest HDTV, a 25,000-square-foot screen spanning more than half the field. Clearly, consumers want the highest quality they can get – at home or away.

In a world of HD expectations, how can newspapers hope to engage customers?

One answer may be another HD: “High-Design.” High-design is a higher quality presentation of content. A newspaper can deliver an HD customer experience through magazine quality layout, color and typography across all of its channels – print, Web, e-readers. In a world of HD expectations, high-design is a basic weapon for publishers to fight back and win the attention of the audience.

Some publishers are already embracing the HD-newspaper model. Take Österreich in Vienna, Austria. They print a glossy tabloid that blends the look and feel of a magazine with the topicality of a newspaper. Their website (OE24.at) complements the Österreich experience in a 24-hour channel. They've attracted a younger demographic and have done it all with a small but integrated newsroom.

Producing an HD-newspaper is not without its challenges, but it is within reach today. We need to have the tools and the talents to create magazine quality layout. We have had a recent breakthrough with Adobe Creative Suite 4. Now it's practical for one page designer to create high-design print pages and complementary high-design digital pages for the Web and e-readers like the iPad.

For print, we need the right paper and the right presses. The San Francisco Chronicle took a step in that direction last year with its redesign. Production is simpler for digital media, but, ironically, print high-design has been impossible to replicate on a website. Take typography. We have come to accept the typographical design limits imposed by HTML. It is a least common denominator Web design tool which is dependent on the basic typefaces that exist on everyone's computer. That is now changing with recent software innovations. Creating and producing HD quality design is becoming more accessible. High-design template libraries from world-class page designers such as Danilo Black are becoming available via the Cloud.

High-design is a way to reimagine the newspaper product with a look and feel that is fresh, dynamic and engaging to the audience. This isn't about changing the game. High-design is just one more way to get newspapers back in the game.

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