KSDK St. Louis is the latest Gannett station to streamline its on-air news presentation, unveiling its new look today. “It’s simple, it’s clean and it’s very, very easy to read. But in the same breath … it has more information,” says Gannett Broadcasting's Rob Mennie. Gannett says it will have made the changes at all 23 of its stations by the end of the first quarter.
Gannett Stations Clean Up Their Graphics
KSDK St. Louis today will become the fifth Gannett station to start airing a new graphics package designed to give its newscasts a cleaner look while boosting editorial content.
“We made this change for editorial advancement as opposed to just a better looking graphics package,” says Gannett Broadcasting VP-Senior News Executive Rob Mennie. “It’s simple, it’s clean and it’s very, very easy to read. But in the same breath … it has more information.”
Gannett debuted the new graphics — three simple horizontal lines at the bottom of the screen — on WTSP Tampa-St. Petersburg- Sarasota, Fla., and WFMY Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, N.C., in December.
The simpler look — which the company plans to have on all 23 of its stations by the end of the first quarter — replaces its previous package, which “just had stuff all over the screen,” Mennie says.
The new graphics includes three lines in the bottom third of the screen, the first of which is reserved for short story summaries. Right under that, stations are able to list the next three stories coming up on a newscast. The bottom third of the package is designed for a news ticker, which individual stations have the option to run or not, Mennie says.
Being able to use more characters within those graphics, for example, means stations will now be able to run short story summaries versus simply titles like they have been doing.
In addition, stories will be color-coded by topic, in the same way that Gannett-owned USA Today does to identify its content by category, Mennie says.
Graphics accompanying a news story, for instance, will be highlighted in blue, just as money stories will be in highlighted in green and sports stories in red. Lifestyle stories are showcased with purple.
According to Mennie, Gannett is redoing its appearance in response to consumer complaints that TV news screens are just too muddled, often with so much information that they are more confusing than helpful.
Gannett screens were just as cluttered as any. Upcoming stories were teased on the sides of the screens, and title bars ran along the bottoms. Buttons would appear in other spots.
“It was even more than a little crowded,” Mennie says. “Viewers didn’t know where to look.”
Mennie likens Gannett’s new user-friendly look — and therefore experience — to something consumers are more likely to find on tablet computers than TV screens.
“If you go to a really good app, it just makes sense. It is just easy and it flows,” he says. “We wanted to do the same thing with this. We want to make sure understanding [how to navigate TV newscast screens] is almost second nature.”
The Mill, a New York and Los Angeles-based image and design firm that specializes in user interfaces and experiences, created the new package, Mennie says.
Gannett is also trying to reach news viewers through the addition of new music, an effort that is unrolling in conjunction with the new on-air look.
A newly composed “anthem,” called This is Home, is now available for news teams to incorporate in a number of ways, Mennie says. The song can be used in story telling, promotion or station events. KUSA Denver, for example, ran the music as part of a story previewing last weekend’s Broncos playoff game.
Composed by Gari Music, there are three different version of the song so that it fits the mood of particular stories, he says. The concept is far different than typical newscast themes, which focus more on the news operations themselves than the people they serve, Mennie says: “Music can create emotion as opposed to being about us.”
While the addition of new graphics and new music may seem like two very separate — and pretty subtle — changes, Mennie says he believes that together the modifications will make an impact on KSDK’s viewers.
“There are a lot of intangibles to this, “ he says. “But by simplifying your message, making it easier to understand and digest, while at the same time celebrating the community you live in, you can take on a whole different look and feel to local news.”