Comics page undergoing some changes

By David Stevens: CNJ Editor

Our newspaper’s black-and-white comics (Page 3C today) have a new look.

After months of thinking about it, asking readers’ opinions and drawing our own conclusions, and finally, negotiating prices with syndicates, we’ve added five new comics and eliminated three.

We made space for the new features by moving the daily history and horoscope reports to the classified advertising section.

In addition, we’re planning to add another comic — Girls and Sports — to our Web site (www.cnjonline.com).

The new comics in the print edition are:
• Family Circus
• Zits
• Baby Blues
• Baldo
• Rubes

We’ve eliminated: The Wizard of Id, Marvin, and Cats with Hands.

The Sunday comics lineup will not change because we are one of 125 papers in that group, and it takes a majority vote to change any of those comics.

In February, we published a survey of readers who told us their favorite CNJ comic is Beetle Bailey. The readers said their least-favorite was Cats with Hands. The comic those readers most wanted to see in the daily paper was Family Circus.

That survey, filled out and sent in by 230 respondents, had a big effect on our decisions, but other factors were also considered. We also considered feedback on the page from two groups of readers. Their ideas varied widely, especially from older to younger readers.

A huge majority of those who responded to our in-paper survey said they were 50 years or older. That is fine but it made us wonder about a couple of things: Do younger people not like to read comics? Do they not like to read our comics? Do they not respond to surveys?

A primary reason for making comics changes is to attract a larger group of young readers. At the same time, we don’t want to offend our loyal readers who are older.

Thus the balance of new and old comics we settled on.
Zits, Baby Blues and Baldo are aimed at younger readers. These comic strips fare well across the country. We believe they’ll be popular here once readers get to know the characters.

We added the long established Family Circus, which runs Sundays already, because it was a survey favorite. Of the 230 ballots we received, 119 respondents wanted Family Circus in the daily lineup.

And, as with any business, cost was a consideration in the lineup changes.

In our survey, Rubes ranked only 38th among comics we didn’t publish that readers wanted. But since the syndicate that owns the rights to Rubes was willing to set a bargain rate and we believe younger readers will love to read this panel, we added it to our roster.

The Wizard of Id and Marvin were among the most expensive comics we had been publishing. Since neither fared well in the survey (ninth and tenth, respectively, among the 13 comics on the page), we decided to drop them. The savings enabled us to increase the number of comics offered.

We dropped Cats with Hands partly because it was last in our survey, but even that choice was not easy. Eight readers said it was their favorite among the 13. The deciding factor was that multiple readers went out of their way to write as to why they didn’t like Cats with Hands.

We don’t expect to please everyone with our changes — you never do with comics changes, especially — but we’re confident the additions will soon become must-reads.
Let us know what you think.

David Stevens is editor for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. Contact him at 1-800-819-9925 or by e-mail: david_stevens@link.freedom.com