Wick Communications

Make your tease count

In Design on 5 Mar 2010 at 9:26 am

Some of us have been talking recently about creating more effective front-page teases. That is particularly important for newspapers that might be mulling a price increase in the coming weeks.

Teasers are a relatively recent development, if I’m not mistaken. While they certainly existed long before USA Today, the revolution of color that accompanied it in the 1980s brought out the artists. Suddenly it seemed like every newspaper was using the “ears” of the front page to sell its inside content. Additionally, technological improvements, including Photoshop, allowed those artists greater latitude with cutouts and photo manipulation.

You probably don’t have to look too far back in your archives to find the days before anyone bothered to tease at all.

Of course, the editor of your paper in 1940 didn’t compete with the Internet or its bloggers, and television was an oddity more than a competitor for local news. Today, things are very different…

There are three big mistakes editors and page designers make with front-page teasers:

  1. They tend to be an afterthought. Too often, the front page is all-but done before someone says, “Hey, what should we tease?” Here in Half Moon Bay, page designer Bill Murray often starts with the teaser. They take as much time as any other element of the page. And often those who take photos lobby for theirs to be used in that prominent location above the mast. (Incidentally, the photos accompanying this post both feature elements that “pop” from the page and spill from their regular confinements. Look for the moths on the Review page. I wouldn’t go to that well too often, but I think it is extremely effective in low doses.
  2. The verbiage is bland. Make sure the type is big enough to attract passersby as they walk down the street. Use active verbs.
  3. They don’t tease stories worth teasing. Few people are going to stop and fish out three quarters for news from the sewer authority meeting.

Bill has some more technical advice, too:

  1. “Sports art tends to be the best I’ve found,” he says. “Good for cutouts and lends a little action. Usually try to mix up gender, age if possible…”
  2. He also sometimes alternates the color of the nameplate – between black and white – so that the art really pops. “Also play with subject being in front or behind nameplate to add a little depth. I always look at the previous week to make sure it doesn’t have the same feel.”
  3. “I really don’t consider other art on page as it usually doesn’t exist when I am doing teases… “

Teasers are so important that some newspapers, such as the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, devote their whole front page to the endeavor. You likely have a dozen or more pages inside. Sell them out front.


  1. I agree with most of what you said. I think your guy went overboard, though.
    A “teaser” that encroaches on other unrelated stories like a bug near or on a graphic, ceases being a teaser; it becomes a detraction.

  2. Fair enough and point well taken. I certainly wouldn’t do it every day. In fact, don’t know that we’ve ever done anything quite like that before.

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