Thursday, 2 August 2012

Front pages raise their game

To the delight, and relief, of the nation Team GB picked up their first gold medals yesterday. So the newspapers, already big on display since the Olympics began, really had to pull out all the stops. But that's a tough call when you've used all the big design devices in the days before. So it was time to be radical - drop the headlines, change the titlepiece colour and wipe out the front pages with big pictures. Here's how they fared in the battle for attention on today's news-stands.

Headlines are clearly a problem, so the Daily Telegraph has decided simply not to bother. As newspapers no longer break the news, they sometimes have to try to capture a mood rather than tell a story, so I am not averse to having a page without a heading. I am not sure about the split vertical page though. It is usually preferable to choose one image and have the confidence to go for it. The split means that the paper has had to select a picture of the rowers standing rather than sitting in a boat. It's a good celebration picture but wouldn't the better crop be the one below? Certainly a different approach for the Telegraph though.

The Times' wraprounds have been a revelation ... bold and beautiful. The main problem with a wrap is choosing a picture that is worth wiping out page 1 but also has enough secondary information to make it worthwhile taking over the back.  So whereas the Telegraph paints itself into a vertical template, The Times needs a strong horizontal shot. So far it has chosen really well. Today's images presents the biggest challenge so far though. The paper, rightly, decides to go for the excellent picture of Wiggins by photographer Graham Hughes ... even though it has only one point of interest. It might be argued that the back page is a waste of space, although it does add context. A full page of blurred crowds, a quote (albeit a great one) and a barcode would, under normal conditions, be seen as indulgent. These are not normal conditions though - as illustrated by The Times using a gold titlepiece, changing its name to The Times of London and using a cryptic pun headline ... Mod rule (also in gold).  
The Independent also decides that it's fair game to change its titlepiece colour. On Saturday it used gold, today it looks more yellow but that could just be the PDF. I like it though. Newspaper fronts shouldn't look the same every day. The paper uses a classic Olympic picture - a British winner with a union flag drape - and the second straightest headline of the day.

The straightest headline goes to the Independent's sister paper the i. Like the Telegraph it goes for a 50/50 picture split - a horizontal one this time - which means one of the photos is forced into an inappropriate shape. The Wiggins picture just doesn't need all the background and cropping his hands off is a little strange. The crop on Helen Glover and Heather Stanning is strong though, which is probably why it takes the top of the page spot.

The Mail also goes for a split page ... with two strong pictures. The Wiggins photograph is almost comical - making him look more like a pantomime character than an Olympic champion. Like most other titles, the Mail struggles a little for an innovative headline. 'Golden Wonder' was The Sun's splash headline on Saturday. The Mail is the only paper to persist with its promo panels today. When is a woman at her sexiest and £5 off at M&S are classic Mail blurbs though. Should shift a few.
The Sun uses similar pictures to the Mail in similar positions. It's a little cluttered at the top but GOOOOOOOOOOLD! sums it up in a tabloidy way. This must be a world record for a one-word headline with the most number of ciphers (11). 

The Mirror goes for a Times' wraparound ... but decides the back page can't just be a fuzzy crowd shot, so adds a couple of tilted pictures.  'Gold rush' is a fairly predictable stock headline - it was used extensively four years ago. On the back page we have 'Day we rode and rowed into history', which is certainly original. Might have made the front.

 It's not often that the headline of the day goes to The Guardian ... but in one word it sums up the relief of the sporting nation. Nicely understated. I wonder if this could be the first time The Guardian has ever used an exclamation mark on its splash headline. Great picture ... a moment of triumph captured in Wiggins's face.

The Daily Express also uses "Gold rush'. On a day of amazing action three headshots across the top mean it's not just the headline that's a little static. Remarkably, the Express is the only paper (apart from the FT) not to splash on GB's two gold medals. I guess it will argue it knows its market. Mmmm! 

One of the best pages today though is this from The Times. A great shot with the headline 'Bradley Wiggins as seen by his rivals'. Underneath is a neat graphic showing just how far Wiggins was ahead.
Overall, a compelling set of pages using innovation and big display. It certainly has been a dynamic few days for UK newspapers. One contender for picture of the day that didn't make it on to any of the front pages, though, is this one of Boris stuck on a zipwire. Now that would have made an interesting wraparound ...  

     Thanks as always to @suttonnick #tomorrowspaperstoday


  1. Great piece Peter. However, am I being pedantic to suggest the final pic of the page from the Times is incorrect. The event was a time trial rather than a road race, so all of Wiggins' rivals (with the exception of Cancellara, who was too slow to have been able to see Wiggin's backside) started and finished ahead of him.


  2. Thanks Guy, good point. I thought it was a general observation - that he is streets ahead of everyone else - rather than something related to the specific time trial. I am sure that's what The Times will say anyway.