Saturday, November 12, 2005

What A Load Of Crap ...

When I worked at the Tribune in TV, I learned very quickly that people take their TV book very seriously. Any time we'd make any kind of change to TV Week, we heard from readers, and they were almost never pleased. Still, the Trib's TV book, under my editor's watch, did very well. Won awards, made a ton of money in advertising. We were always having to redraw it to accomodate late ads. So when it comes to TV books, I know whereof I speak.

Doreen has been a long-time TV Guide reader. Last week, she canceled her subscription. Thursday, she gave me a recent copy to critique.

What a waste of trees.

Where to begin? How about the beginning? Some unsolicited advice to Ian Birch and company:

1) The name of your publication is TV Guide. It is not People. In a 106-page book, the first time I see listings should not be on page 62. (I'm still trying to figure that out, the 106 pages - the number of pages needs to be a multiple of 4; ah, OK, got it, the covers don't count, so it's 104 pages wrapped in a cover, but the front cover doesn't count as page 1.)

2) Amazing-but-true geography fact: The entire country does not reside in the Eastern time zone. Zone the editions of your book for readers in Central, Mountain, and Pacific. (Maybe you didn't want to go through the expense of printing multiple editions during your rollout, but you're losing subscribers because of it. Bad move.)

3) The purpose of a television guide is to have a handy reference nearby when your butt is cemented to the Barcalounger. So the instruction at the bottom of the left-hand pages, "For your 24-hour local listings and channel numbers, please visit tvguide.com/listings" is stupid. Some people don't have computers at home. And those who do probably don't want to have to go into another room to find out what's going to be on the TV that's right in front of them.

4) Hire a professional graphic designer. Yellow "highlighted" text on glossy stock isn't clever, it's hard to read, especially on a beige sidebar. Yuck.

Yikes. Did they bother with focus groups before rolling this thing out? Who did they talk to? The editor's mom?

TV Guide used to have a stranglehold on the TV listings market. When I had to dummy the TV book every week (that's newspaperspeak for drawing the layout of the book, the ad placements and what content belonged on what pages), we always had ads whose size made no sense for our 8 x 11 book. They were ... TV Guide-sized. Advertisers didn't want to have to create more than one ad, so ads were designed for TV Guide and our book had to work around them, which usually meant flowing in goofy features, such as TV Mailbag, to fill up the space at the top of the page.

Doreen, I hope I've aired your objections. Feel free to post a comment for anything I've missed.

Haters of the new TV Guide, let your voices be heard!

3 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

What's even the purpose of TV Guide anymore? Kinda like a printed dictionary; it's served it's purpose, time to wither away and die.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, I think on-screen program guides are annoying. I can see Doreen's points. But then, when I need to look up a word, I actually grab my dictionary off my shelf.

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Kyoo said...

Who needs TV guide? With Tivo, we only watch what we want to watch. Plus, my on screen guide saves trees from the paper mill and sends them to my father in laws lumber mill.

8:53 PM  

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