Once or twice during the typical football season, Cambridge United hold special discount days. Normally this will be something like all under-16s getting in for a quid, or kids getting in free if they come with their old pops.
The club hopes that by igniting a bit of Saturday afternoon fun, the children will be pestering Dad next week. “Can we go to the football Dad? Can we can we?”
What you wouldn’t want, as a football club or fan, is these occasions to be a bore draw. Or a complete thumping at the hands of some other non-league minionish squad. Nobody likes being shown up by off-duty postmen.
Today was the Standard’s discount day. Chucking away their paper for free, it was actually an enticing offer. When given the option of Londonpaper or Lite versus the quality of the Standard, I almost felt sorry for the regular freebies. They just didn’t come close.
And, after a shaky start, I’m pretty pleased to say the Standard came home today with a steady 1-0 win.
I love a good redesign. I went out to grab a free copy on my lunch break just to take a look. Roy Greenslade was right — the masthead has looks only a mother would love — and it’s far too big. Interestingly enough, its colour changed between editions — the later version was much more pleasing to the eye. But still — far too big.
One other bugbear for me has to be the fonts. In the masthead, we’ve lost the all important gravitas that the old mast used to have. Gone is Eros. Instead, we’ve got a flimsy stack of text which seems imbalanced and clumsy. Around it, we have a contemporary font, or at least we would have done had it been 1998. Annoyingly, if you were to chop the mast off, the rest of the front page looks distinctly like the old newspaper. I say if you’re going modern, then do it properly. While I believe that journalism in Britain is better, we’re still light-years behind the US and even the rest of Europe when it comes to innovative design.
But that’s all an aside. Like watching Cambridge, you can’t let the naff and dated surroundings put you off — it’s what happens on the pitch that matters.
It didn’t look good at first. I don’t know about you, but Tom Wolfe doesn’t exactly scream excitement to me. And I’ve seen plenty of features about, and even written by, him. So considering this was a big launch it was a very soft lead feature, even more so when the cringeworthily weak ‘end of excess’ hook was in place. Dull.
At lunchtime, the frontpage lead was about a City tycoon’s double life. It was literally a double life. As they’d say in New Zealand, it’s a good yarn. You should read it. I’ve quoted Terry Tibbs on this blog before, but I must do it again. “Come on, you need to sell me. Seduce me. You don’t just jump into bed with Terry Tibbs.”
And that’s the problem. I didn’t know how good a story it was. The subs did a horrible job of making it seem interesting. I only ended up reading it when my battery ran out on the way home. My commute is much longer than the average Londoner, so I’d worry everyone missed it. Shame really.
But what did triumph on the feature front was the piece about the Power of 10. It made me think a lot. Sadly, it’s a typical PR-driven puff piece, but then I guess people often write good books. Who am I to deprive myself of knowing about them?
Sport was nothing special. Chelsea won. I knew that yesterday. I’m yet to see any of the London papers get to the nitty-gritty of their teams. Maybe the plethora of top flight competitors is a poisoned chalice. If there was only one massive team in London it would be a lot easier to get behind them. As it stands, they’ll forever be entangled around the politics of keeping Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs fans equally happy. No mean feat — we know Spurs fans are all miserable bastards.
On a more positive note, the Standard’s sports journalists have always been very keen to pick out comments from various web forums. The cynic would argue that this was just a means of getting easy, free copy. The cynic would also argue that the ramblings of a football fan on a forum are no substitute for good original journalism — but it’s a nice, fun diversion.
As much as I enjoyed the paper, I couldn’t help feel a little lonely. I’m used to picking up the Lite and heading straight to the text column. Or thelondonpaper and checking to see if some foxy admirer felt compelled to text in a compliment to ‘Love struck’. Soppy nothings they may be, but at least it makes me feel like I’m part of a community. One that, if I felt like it, I could interact with. The Lite’s column is especially good. I’d regard it as the best bit of a paper. And so would many other people, for that matter. I know the man opposite me at work loves it, and he’s a good 20-or-so years my senior. But, equally, the Dizzee Rascal-lookalike literally falling over with laughter on the tube yesterday seemed to be enjoying it too. If there’s one way to appeal to your readers, it’s to invite them in. Take note Standard.
So yes, all-in-all, it’s a one-nil win for the Standard. They didn’t wow the crowds, but they left me feeling like they were a team on the up. This could be their year. An old colleague said to me that “considering the Standard has the best beat in the world, it ain’t half rubbish”. He was right. And, uneasy as any Russian takeover may feel, if Alexander Lebedev wants to try and reflect a great city with a great newspaper — I say let him.
For the time being at least, they’ve gained another reader.
Other related reading:
Press Gazette – 650,000 giveaway for Evening Standard relaunch today. Dominic Ponsford’s thoughts (in the comments — I like this) are particularly astute: “[I]t still leaves me with the impression of being a paper that is elitist and aimed very much at an in-crowd of high-consuming, theatre-going, new fashion-wearing Londoners.” Very true. The lead comment piece today? This pile of bore. Sigh.
Media Guardian – Ex-Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley’s verdict on paper’s new regime
“Saying ‘Sorry’ for the past smacks of a Soviet courtroom ‘confession’. ‘Sorry’ has all the hallmarks of a KGB-style smear campaign.” — Wadley subtly hints at a dislike for the new Russian owners.