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1500 Spring Garden Street


Suite #1200
Philadelphia, PA 19130

(215) 238-5300

5 Small Words
That Can Save
Newspapers
From Oblivion
By
Denny Hatch

Copyright 2015 Denny Hatch Associates, Inc.


Denny Hatch
310 Gaskill Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19147
215-627-9103 (rings on my desk)
dennyhatch@yahoo.com

The Newspaper Design Catastrophe

528 newspapers went belly-up in the years 2009-2012.


18,300 newsroom jobs have been lost since 2007.
Print editions of daily newspapers lost 25.5 million readers.
The reason newspapers are dying is because fewer and fewer people are
able to read them.
For starters, they are not willing or able to wade through endless gray
walls of type.
Print newspapers are operating under a 19th century, copy-heavy design
model. This is a death spiral.

The U.S. Literacy Problem


50% of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth-grade level.
45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a fifth-grade level.
44% of the American adults do not read a book in a year.
6 out of 10 households do not buy a single book in a year.
Between 46 and 51 percent of American adults have an income well
below the individual threshold poverty level because of their inability to
read.
Approximately 50 percent of Americans read so poorly that they are
unable to perform simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook and
reading prescription drug labels.
Literacy Project Foundation
The Attention Span Problem
Every man is constantly holding a mental conversation with himself,
and the burden of that conversation is himselfhis interests, his loved
ones, his business, his advancement. Robert Collier (1885-1950).
Copywriter, author of The Robert Collier Letter Book
These self-conversations are frequently interrupted: a baby crying, a
kitchen timer going off, a dog barking, someone at the front door, a fire
engine going by, a pile of direct mail or a the ring of a cellphone.
If your headline is blind and causes the reader to say, Huh? Whats
this about?. . .
If your lede is long and dense. . .
If these two elements do not interrupt and keep on interrupting, the
interruption you are trying to achieve is interrupted.
Whereupon we resume the conversation with ourselves.
Once you have captured the attention of your readers, it is imperative
to hold it. Otherwise, theyre gone.

The Technology Problem

Technology is rewiring our brains, said Nora Volkow, director of the


National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the worlds leading brain
scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital
stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex,
which are essential but counterproductive in excess Scientists say
juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can
change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is
being undermined by bursts of information. These play to a primitive
impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The
stimulation provokes excitementa dopamine squirtthat researchers
say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored. The resulting
distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cell phonewielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks.
Matt Richtel, The New York Times

The addictive nature of Web browsing can leave you with an


attention span of nine secondsthe same as a goldfish.
Dr. Ted Selker, MIT Media Lab
Takeaways to Consider
Our grandparents and their parents grew up reading newspapers. This
was how printed news was disseminated.
As seniors die offand their places taken by the youthprint
newspapers are becoming increasingly vestigial.
Only 35% of high school seniors read at or above the proficient level.
This represents a death spiral for print newspapers.

In written communications,
these are coins of the realm.

Texting
160 Characters Maximum
Cellphones and texting have
revolutionized written
communications.
271 million Americans are
mobile phone subscribers.
61% of U.S. adults send and
receive text messages.
They send or receive 41.5 text
messages on a typical day.
18 to 29 year-olds send and
receive an average of 87 texts
a day.
Can texters comprehend a
newspaper story?
A serious attention span exists.

Tweeting
140 Characters Maximum
Twitter has 284 million active
users.
Twitter users spend an average
of 170 minutes per month.
46% of Twitter subscribers use
it at least once a day.
Average number of Tweets per
day; 500 million.
Average number of Tweets per
year: 1.825 trillion.
Damien Franco follows me on
Twitter along with 39,599
others.
Does Damien have time to read
a newspaper? Dont count on it!

It is imperative to keep
the readers eye moving.
This means riveting prose. Heres the lede in the Times above:
After more than 4,000 yearsalmost since the dawn of recorded
time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret of
immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floorman finally
discovered eternal life in 1988. The discovery was made
unwittingly by Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology
student in his early 20s. He was spending the summer in Rapallo,
a small city on the Italian Riviera, where exactly one century
earlier Friedrich Nietzsche conceived Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel
of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .
I was gone. Most readers would be.
Takeaways to Consider
The first 10 words are more important than the next ten
thousand. Elmer Sizzle Wheeler
Start by upsetting a bucket of gore in the readers lap and spend
the rest of the time cleaning it up. Bob Scott

Ugly Works.
Bob Hacker

About the Tacky Ad Above


Written and designed by Fred Briesmeister for Greystone Press in the
1960s, this is graphically extreme and yes, ugly as hell.
I do not suggest for a minute a newspaper page should look like this.
Rather it is an example in print of how to grab the readers attention
and move the eye all over the place.
Where neatness rejects involvement, this ugly advertisement worked
like gangbusters. It sold a ton of books.

The Future of Newspaper Design


Is the 1958 Advertisement Below
This Full-Page Broadsheet New York Times Ad Ran
6,450 Words and Thousands Read the Entire Thing
Advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote that these 6,450 words are
the most anybody has ever used in a single page.
Back when I was editor of Target Marketing magazine, this format
was called an Advertorial. It allowed advertisers the opportunity to
tell their stories quietlyin a news formatwithout the hype of a
copywriter. I wrote scads of them for my advertisers.
Today the buzz-term is Native Advertising.
The advertisement below was written and designed by Louis Engel,
former managing editor of Business Week and later vice president
and partner of Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane.
[Engel] wrote the copy to help clear up the stock and bond business
in [his] own mind, reported Julian Lewis Watkins. He did that all
right for himself and a good many thousand others.
The Offer
The ad was an interminably long treatise on stock and bond
investing. Yet thousands of readers stayed glued to the very end.
How do we know that? Here are the final 72 words of text.
These terms are defined in a booklet, How to Invest,
which we have just published. A basic guidebook for all
security owners, this new publication develops in greater
detail the story of how this stock and bond business works.
It reviews the basic principles of sound investing, such as
analysis of market trends, the diversification of holdings,
and the management of a portfolio. We will be glad to send
you a copy.
There was no coupon. No 800-number. No headline touting a free
booklet. The offer was an afterthought. A veritable throwaway.
The results were astounding:

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People won't read long copy!


How many times have you heard that one? Well here's one more than
6000 words long, an all-text page, broken only by two boxes and
scattered subheads, that will probably tum out to be one of the most
thoroughly read advertisements ever published.
Early readership research, by an absolutely impartial source, has
definitely established that possibility.
For the advertisement appeared first in the New York Times last year,
and though the page was neither created nor designed to pull
inquiries, two varied write-in offers were made.
One month after publication 5,033 requests for 20,000 copies of
either or both of the items offered had been received 4,000 of
them the first week. 3,534 requests came by mail, 947 by telephone
and 552 from visitors to one of the Merrill Lynch offices.
Julian Lewis Watkins
THE 100 GREATEST ADVERTISEMENTS:
Who Wrote Them and What They Did
The advertisement was solid type.
Louis Engel and his designer used none of newspapers standard
repertoire of visual devices to break up the page:
No photographs
No drawings
No captions
No charts
No lists
Yet thousands of readers stayed with the text all the way to the end.
Here is the ad.

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5 Small Words That Can Save


Newspapers from Oblivion

Avoid gray walls of type.


David Ogilvy

I urge every publisher, editor, ad manager, journalist, freelance writer


and creative director to hard-wire these 5 words into your DNA.
This is true of all written communicationsin print and online:

newspapers
memos
rsums
blogs
websites

letters
articles
news releases
reports and white papers
e-mails

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Visual devices Louis Engel used to keep the readers eye moving:
Upper deck: What everybody ought to know. . .
Headline: About This Stock and Bond Business
Lower Deck: Some plain talk about a simple business
that often sounds complicated.
Two Boxes: Upper left and bottom righteach with its own headline.
Subhead Upper middle right: How to Buy and Sell Securities
16 Boldface Crossheads: Scattered throughout. These break up the
columnsthe gray walls of typeinto bite-sized reading units. These
are the same typeface as the text, upper-lower case, but boldface.
Skipped Lines: White space surrounds every crosshead.

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The Rules of Typesetting and Design That


Engels Merrill Lynch Masterpiece Followed
The following concepts apply to virtually any communicationin print or
onlinewith the exception of a short story or novel.
A display subhead of two or three lines between your headline
and your body copy will heighten the readers appetite for the feast
to come.
After two or three inches of copy, insert your first boldface
crosshead, and thereafter pepper crossheads throughout.
Crossheads keep the reader marching forward. Make some of
them interrogative, to excite curiosity in the next run of copy.
An ingenious sequence of boldly displayed crossheads can deliver
the substance of your entire pitch to glancers who are too lazy to
wade through the text.
David Ogilvy
Confessions of an Advertising Man
Visual Touch Points
Lets say you are reading along and are interrupted. A phone call,
the doorbell, nature callswhatever.
You stop reading and take care of business. If you return to a gray
wall of type, where did you leave off?
With the Ogilvy-Engel model of subheads and crossheads, its far
easier to scan the page and see where to resume than if faced with
a gray wall of type.
In short, to keep readers engaged, it is imperative to break up gray
walls of type into bite-sized entitiesakin to texts and Tweets.
Then jazz up the page with photos, captions, charts, graphs and
lists.
NOTE: These rules of reader engagement do not
apply only to all newspaper inside pages.

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Takeaways to Consider
Suffice it to say, these gray walls of type do not make it inviting for
the person browsing the newsstand for something to read.
Approximately 50 percent of Americans read so poorly that they are
unable to perform simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook and
reading prescription drug labels.

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Between 46 and 51 percent of American adults have an income well


below the individual threshold poverty level because of their inability
to read.
The addictive nature of Web browsing can leave you with an
attention span of nine secondsthe same as a goldfish.
Our grandparents and their parents grew up reading newspapers. This
was how printed news was disseminated.
Only 35% of high school seniors read at or above the proficient level.
This represents a death spiral for print newspapers.
As seniors die offtheir places should be taken by the youth. Alas,
print newspapers are becoming vestigial.
Communications coin of the realm are the text (160 characters
maximum) and the Tweet (140 characters maximum).
Like the text and the Tweet, paragraphs should be bite-sized for
readability.
Print newspapers are operating under a 19th century, copy-heavy
design model.
The option for newspaper executives: change or adapt your rsum
for some other industry.
If newspapers adopt the Louis Engel modelwith crossheads
throughoutmore readers will spend more time with newspapers.
Everybody winsreaders, publishers and advertisers!
Avoid gray walls of type.
I urge every publisher, editor, ad manager, journalist, freelance writer
and creative director to hard-wire these 5 words into your DNA.
Neatness rejects involvement.
Ugly works.
A display subhead of two or three lines between your headline
and your body copy will heighten the readers appetite for the
feast to come.

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After two or three inches of copy, insert your first crosshead, and
thereafter pepper crossheads throughout.
Crossheads keep the reader marching forward. Same typeface
and text size as the body copy. But boldface.
Make some crossheads interrogative, to excite curiosity in the
next run of copy.
When inserting a crosshead, skip a line to create white space.
An ingenious sequence of boldly displayed crossheads can deliver
the substance of your entire pitch to glancers who are too lazy to
wade through the text.
The first 10 words are more important than the next ten thousand.
Your best lede will most likely be found in the middle of the second
page of your first draft. Pat Friesen
Start by upsetting a bucket of gore in the readers lap and spend the
rest of the time cleaning it up.
A sentence longer than 29 words is extremely difficult to comprehend.
In short, to keep readers engaged, it is imperative to break up
gray walls of type into bite-sized entitiesakin to texts and
Tweets.
Then jazz up the page with photos, captions, charts, graphs and
lists.
With the rise of the Internet, headlines have taken on another
dimension. Not only are they designed with the reader in mind, but
they also must do double duty. Headlines must capture the attention
of the search engine robotic spiders continually crawling through the
Internet to pick up keywords. This guarantees the material will
appear in the correct subject categories. In fact, many headlines are
written for search engines first and the reader second. This is the art
and science of search engine optimization (SEO).
What good is all the painstaking work on copy if the headline
isnt right? If the headline doesnt stop people, the copy might
as well be written in Greek. John Caples

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Writing headlines is one of the greatest journalist arts.


Claude Hopkins
I would urge all writers to be responsible for creating their own
headlines and titles. If written by someone else, a headline
could be so clever it misses the point and confuses the reader.
Headlines are the hot pants on the hooker. Bill Jayme
The headline selects the reader. Axel Andersson
It is the headline that gets people into the copy. The copy
doesnt get them into the headline. Vic Schwab
Your headline should telegraph what you want to say in
simple language. Readers do not stop to decipher the meanings
of obscure headlines. David Ogilvy
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as
read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you
have earned eighty cents out of every dollar of your salary.
David Ogilvy
Dont use puns in headlines. They rarely translate to the readers
context. George Duncan
The 50 most looked-up words in The New York Times
alacrity antediluvian apoplectic apostates atavistic
austerity baldenfreude canard chimera comity
crches cynosure dmarche desultory egregious
epistemic ersatz feckless hegemony hubris
incendiary inchoate internecine jejune Kristallnacht
laconic Manichean mirabile dictu nascent obduracy
obstreperous omert opprobrium overhaul peripatetic
polemicist prescient profligacy profligate
provenance putative redoubtable renminbi sanguine
sclerotic solipsistic soporific sui generis ubiquitous
verisimilitude
If the reader stops to look up a word, the thread of concentration
is suddenly gone, possibly along with the reader.
Short words. Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Andrew J. Byrne

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On the Internet, we are all a mouse-click away from oblivion.


George Wolff
Use serif type in print text, sans serif online.
David Ogilvy on Design and Text:
1. Keep your opening paragraph to a maximum of eleven words. A
long first paragraph frightens readers away. All your paragraphs
should be as short as possible; long paragraphs are fatiguing.
2. Type smaller than 9-point is difficult for most people to read.
3. Widows increase readership, except at the bottom of a
column, where they make it too easy for the reader to quit. [A
widow occurs when a line of copy is too long by a single word, with
the result that the word shows up in the next lineand is the only
word in that line.]
4. Break up the monotony of long copy by setting key paragraphs
in boldface or italic.
5. Insert illustrations from time to time.
6. Help the reader into your paragraphs with arrowheads, bullets,
asterisks and marginal marks.
7. Never set your copy in reverse (white type on a black
background) and never set it over a gray or colored tint. The old
school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to
read the copy; we now know they make reading impossible.
8. Reverse copy is especially dangerous on porous newsprint where
registration is dicey at best.
9. If you use leading between paragraphs, you increase readership by
an average of 12 percent.
10. If you have a lot of unrelated facts to recite, dont try to relate
them with cumbersome connectives; simply number them, as I am
doing here.
-30-

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*****5.0 out of 5 stars


First, Get a Fresh Highlighter
You'll need it. This book is chock full of proven techniques to improve
your writing today. Denny Hatch's prose is economical and packed
with energy. Every word matters and the layout is designed to keep
you reading and thinking. You'll dog-ear your copy and fill it with
scribbled marginal notes--just as I did. Will Denny make you a better
writer? I'm willing to bet he will, and I bet the future of my family on
it. I just purchased two more copies for my kids (16 and 12 years
old), because I KNOW they'll do better in college after learning from
Denny. Mark Pilipczuk
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