- Innovation at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The Little Tab That Did
When the circulation at the Post-Dispatch started falling off, alarms started to go off. Publisher Terry Egger called in Synecticsworld to help.
The Synectics innovation process is broadly inclusive. This proved challenging in a news organization where, by tradition, reporters are segregated from sales people for fear they might try to influence stories in favor of big advertisers. Still, the project unified editorial and business in a common goal to recreate the Post-Dispatch.
Richard K. Weil Jr., then managing editor, describes the genesis of one of the team’s clever innovations:
“Research…unearthed a crucial fact. Sunday-only readers―especially women, view Saturday as their second-best day to read a newspaper” because they have more free time. Saturday readership was much lower than Sunday because the Saturday paper “had to sell alongside the early Sunday edition, which hits supermarkets and convenience stores around 10 a.m. on Saturdays.”
They had the idea to produce a once-a-week tabloid format, the thought being if the Saturday paper is so different than Sunday’s, consumer will want to pick up both.
It was revolutionary at the time: change the content, size, layout, and (a huge challenge) the presses.
It was all worthwhile, because the tab was a big hit. Saturday numbers rose 14% in the first six months, overall circulation stopped declining within 12 months, and it actually increased the next year—the first rise in ten years.
Weil said, “With our success, some people ask me if we’ll be going tabloid the other six days a week. No, Saturday’s edition is different because the nature of the day is different, but we do hope the reader friendliness will spread.”