The Mario Blog
11.13.2009—4am
The Philadelphia Story (Entry #6): We present; positive reactions

TAKEAWAY: The D day finally arrived. We presented a variety of suggestions to make the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com better and more profitable. Four hours of presentation and discussion. All good. We get ready for the next step. AND: Al Triviño’a prototype pages from the London Sunday Times that wasn’t

Updated Friday, Nov. 13, 06:41 EST

TAKEAWAY: The D day finally arrived. We presented a variety of suggestions to make the Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com better and more profitable. Four hours of presentation and discussion. All good. We get ready for the next step. AND: Al Triviño’a prototype pages from the London Sunday Times that wasn’t

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The Philadelphia Story: we make things happen, as opposed to waiting for them to happen. Such is the case with what I call The Philadelphia Story. I was lamenting not having any American projects for over two years. So I decided to take action and made the publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, philly.com an offer he could not refuse. It is the project of projects. What happens when the consultant invites himself? My “diary entries” about this incredible continue here today.

The Philadelphia Story (Entry 1):
http://www.garciamedia.com/blog/articles/a_very_special_project_for_me_the_philadelphia_story

The Philadelphia Story (Entry 2):
http://www.garciamedia.com/blog/articles/the_philadelphia_story_entry_2_discussing_the_non_project_project

The Philadelphia Story (Entries 3-4-5):
http://www.garciamedia.com/blog/articles/the_philadelphia_story_entry_3_i_recognize_this_conference_room

A morning to remember in Philly

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Various visual motifs from our presentation to the Inquirer’s team yesterday in Philadelphia

Reed and I entered the conference room of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I first took a few minutes to show Reed the place, the fantastic view of the city, the French doors leading to the terrace where receptions are held when the weather is warmer than today.

It is a cold, wet and windy day outside. I drink my second cup of coffee of the day, while pointing to the chandelier which is perfectly centered over the oval table—witness to so many decisive moments in the long history of this newspaper—-and several in which I participated.

Reed asks me if the room has changed over the course of the years.

“I am sure it has,” I tell him, But the classic style prevails, along with the historical pages of the Inquirer hanging on the walls. Lindberg’s flight across the Atlantic, World War II ends, JFK Assassinated. Front pages for events that are so familiar that they almost turn into those memorable movie posters that stay with you long after the movie itself is forgotten.

We have arrived early, with plenty of time to connect the computer, test the presentation and have a first pre-presentation with Ryan Davis, newly appointed president of philly.com, and project leader for our work with the Inquirer et al.

Good news on the financial front

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Meet Franklin, the Inquirer’s mascot, who walks freely around the executive suite on the 12th floor

Ryan gives us a quick report in which he expresses optimism for the financial state of the Inquirer. I have decided not to get too involved with the finances of the organization, other than to know the minimal I need to know about its bankruptcy proceedings and its progress emerging from it. Ryan reassures us that the news is good.

Meanwhile, publisher Brian Tierney, the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up, wearing no tie, but smiling, leads a session for a group of lawyers, bankers, investors. I see his group on the other side of a glass wall. It looks like an intense session. Franklin, the black poodle and mascot of the Inquirer (I am told Franklin was rescued from a shelter for abused dogs), sits and stares at us, the one creature in the room without a care in the world.

Later in the day, when Brian manages to emerge from his meeting, he ushers us into his office and says:

“I feel like Rocky Balboa!”

We sit down around a table to show him a quick version of the presentation we had spent four hours delivering for his top editors.

The presentation

Don’t forget that my co pilot on this project is Reed Reibstein, who, at 21, a junior at Yale University, represents exactly the type of reader we all would like to attract and to retain.

Reed is not only my co pilot, but he is someone I try to mentor at every step of the process, knowing that he will be one of the stars in our business after he graduates from Yale as an art history major.

It is in that role, as mentor, that I tell him: In terms of presentation, this one today ranked an 8 1/2 on a scale of 1 to 10.

We presented a series of changes that are revolutionary for US newspapers (I will refrain from dealing with the specifics here, as the Inquirer crew needs to analyze it all, study its feasibility, then reconvene with us).

Suffice it to say that there are navigational ideas, new advertising configurations, and radical shifts in overall phillosophy to shake the roots of the Inquirer, Daily News and philly. com.

There is also a new typographic scheme, a strategically designed branding concept, new color palette, etc.

The important thing: new revenue producing concepts, some of which will require editorial flexibility—-and editors’ approval (not easy in American newsrooms, where every suggestion that is not an AD at the bottom of the page or in an ugly staircase is close to sinning).

But today—-and I remind Reed later that this is NO small accomplishment——there are no shocks during our presentation, and tons of approval.

“Impressive, ingenious,” said editor Bill Marimow . “I like a lot of what I see.”

Perhaps this is more than an 8 1/2. As I reflect, make this one a 9, Reed.

(While I apologized to Reed for making him miss a day of classes at Yale today, I could not help but to remind him that even though he did not attend classes today, there was plenty of learning as he participated in the dynamics of presentation, not to mention exchange with editors of an American daily in financial distress, then meet lawyers and bankers who are trying to assist it and to help it survive).

With the bankers/lawyers

I am glad Brian took us in to meet his bankers/lawyers.

After all, whatever discussions they have—-and I know that money is the number one topic—- the product is what is important.

So, like a cheerleader carrying two big pom poms in hand, I said hello to the group, and had a little pep rally of sorts: The product we are devising is different and innovative, I told them, and will most likely produce new revenue; it also will integrate print/digital in better ways.

Smiles all around.

Brian—-or should I say a happy Rocky Balboa?——displays a big smile.

First round over, Rocky, time to prepare for the next one.

The 1986 Philadelphia Inquirer redesign

Those of you interested in my first redesign of The Inquirer can now access the chapter of Newspaper Evolutions in which I presented a case study of that redesign. It shows in detail the thinking process behind that redesign, along with sample pages and a graphic history of the Inquirer up to that point.

Of interest: today we decided to start our presentation by flashing this chapter on the screen, to give everyone in the room a sense of history, while celebrating that most of the elements of that 1986 redesign are still intact in the newspaper. The challenges of that redesign, however, were quite different from those we face as we rethink The Inquirer, The Daily News and philly.com today.

Go here to check the 1986 redesign in Newspaper Evolutions:

A London Sunday Times prototype created by Al Triviño

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Front pages for a proposed prototype created by Al Triviño, chief designer for NewsCorp (based in London) for the London Sunday Times, but never implemented

In a recent post, we discussed the importance of prototyping. I invited readers of this blog to send along interesting prototypes that were never implemented.

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