During a different chapter of my career, I helped relaunch Marketing, a sister to Campaign. That was hard but transforming a newspaper is in a different league. No other product's look, feel and composition is scrutinised as closely and frequently by its users as a newspaper. Readers come to know the familiar personality of their paper, can feel their way round its nooks and crannies blindfolded and can instantly recognise its reassuring tone of voice.
Editors mess with these things at their peril. And yet they have to.
The Guardian has never held back from radical rethinks and last year's overhaul of the Daily Mirror was as bold a piece of repositioning as the mass market has seen. Like all brands, newspapers cannot afford to stand still. Nevertheless, these things are stressful, costly, dangerous and, more often than not, tough to evaluate. So the recent changes at The Daily Telegraph will not have been undertaken lightly.
The biggest furore seems to have come from the dropping of the Peterborough column which, in a nifty piece of piracy, has been adopted by the Daily Mail, rather as the Union flag was filched by Branson when BA abandoned it. Cheekily, the Mail says its Peterborough will appeal to "disaffected readers of other newspapers".
The signing of Anne Robinson and Irvine Welsh as columnists can be no bad thing. They will add some poke to the comment pages, which must be the most realistic way the Telegraph can start to turn the age profile around, though in the past few years I have wondered whether it might be trying a little too hard to appeal to the young. This is still the biggest-selling broadsheet daily, after all.
Design-wise, there is not too much inside the paper that has changed.
But page one is different, all right. The gothic masthead gets a going-over. It is more contemporary, though comfortingly unrevolutionary (as you might expect, although one reader complained that she can no longer biro in the white bits of the letters). There are slightly fewer news stories too, giving the page a more uncluttered feel. That is the art of these things - subtle updating without frightening the horses.
My guess is, in a month or so, it will have bedded down pretty well, not least because as Stephen Glover, writing in the Telegraph Group's sister title The Spectator, says: "Not much of the furniture has been moved around."
Unlike, it must be said, The Spectator itself, which has also had the decorators in and, to my eye at least, has made an unnecessary mess of it.
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