El Tiempo, the most widely read newspaper in Colombia, recently completed a 21st-century redesign of our 100-year-old print publication.

We accomplished this challenge with 100% internal staff for the first time. Several departments of the publishing company shared ownership of the process, which took about 18 months.

The redesign was based on audience preferences that were measured in a scientific and systematic way. The objectives of the redesign were to modernise the graphic presentation, tailor more content to our target audience, and improve the general quality of the product to connect better with them.

More infographics are incorporated into the print newspaper not only to modernise the design, but also to satisfy the audience’s desire for more analysis and deeper understanding of the news.
More infographics are incorporated into the print newspaper not only to modernise the design, but also to satisfy the audience’s desire for more analysis and deeper understanding of the news.

The new design is sober, elegant, clean, and attractive to emphasise El Tiempo’s long-established credibility. The layout is more open with bigger blank spaces and balanced page elements, which were found in test groups to be perceived as modern and evolutionary.

We also shifted some of our content toward more explanatory formats and deeper analysis, which our audiences indicated was a preference. We allotted more space in the pages for stories heavy on analysis, interpretation, and reporting. And we grew the use infographics 40%, adding full-page infographics and some other smaller infographics.

We offer more deep and enjoyable content that is useful in daily life and committed to the interests of the public. Some sections that used to be weekly, including Health, Education, Technology, Science, and Social Networks, are now published daily based on audience preferences.

El Tiempo increased the frequency of specific sections from weekly to daily in response to audience research.
El Tiempo increased the frequency of specific sections from weekly to daily in response to audience research.

The redesign was launched in October 2017 in conjunction with a huge advertising and marketing campaign, and it was an instant success:

  • During the first month after the redesign launch, we achieved double the number of subscriptions, compared with the same month the previous year. 
  • This growth was sustained in December, two months after the launch, when the number of new subscriptions was up 73%, compared with the same month the previous year.
  • Overall in the two months following the redesign, 11,790 new subscriptions were achieved, a figure that reversed a downward trend before the redesign.
  • Advertising sales also received a boost with more than 1.4 billion Colombian pesos in gross income.  

The public response also was excellent. In a survey of more than 1,000 newspaper subscribers, 83% rated it as “good” or “excellent” and rated the level of redesign attractiveness above 80%. Among the virtues that stood out, survey respondents said El Tiempo is “more modern and elegant,” “easier to read,” and “at a high level of world newspapers.”

In the same research, 76% said the visualisation of data and infographics helped them gain a better understanding of the news. A similar amount, 77%, found innovative content in the new design.

In a different survey conducted on the streets of the four largest cities in Colombia, out of more than 800 respondents, 85% found this version easier to read than the previous one.

The timing of the El Tiempo redesign could not have been better — right at the emergence of heightened fake news awareness and the post-truth era. When emotional impulses begin to override objective facts, it’s a good time for serious journalism. We think it’s a good time for El Tiempo.