MEDIA FEATURES SECTIONS: New climate offers features focus - As the press competes with other media, such as satellite TV, to break news, newspapers are investing in their features sections to offer better value

The features pages of the broadsheets were once where the day’s news items were analysed. In the last ten years, however, their role has expanded greatly. Features sections are now more ’magaziney’ in feel, with a separate identity and an agenda that goes beyond the news of the day.

The features pages of the broadsheets were once where the day’s

news items were analysed. In the last ten years, however, their role has

expanded greatly. Features sections are now more ’magaziney’ in feel,

with a separate identity and an agenda that goes beyond the news of the


This trend was underlined this week with the Times’ introduction of its

own stand-alone tabloid features and arts section. Following the

successful pioneering of the format by the Guardian’s G2 section, the

move leaves the Daily Telegraph as the only broadsheet to have features

within the main body of the paper, and as the only one not to have, at

some point, run a tabloid section - the Independent has already tried

the idea and reverted to a broadsheet format.

The fact that other media, such as satellite TV and the internet can

deliver instant news has meant that newspapers have needed to add


At the same time an increasing demand for advertising has increased page

volumes, with publishers using magazine-style features and special

sections aimed at niche advertisers to fill the capacity.

Marc Bedwell, director of press at media agency Media-vest, says: ’There

is a trend towards increasing the overall value through vehicles such as

lifestyle sections. What we are seeing with the Times is part of that.

It is a brave attempt and I think it should work.’

Features sections have also become increasingly important in defining

the character of the newspaper. But given that they are all reacting to

the same core news agenda how can differentiation be achieved?

Format has helped, both in making the various newspapers’ features

sections look different, and in dictating, to some extent, the editorial


The Guardian’s G2 tabloid, for example, allows a pacier approach, with

subjects being given more weight by the fact that they occupy a whole

spread. Hence, a tendency towards detailed, factual pieces.

The Daily Telegraph’s feature pages must contrast with the foreign news

pages they follow, and therefore tend to be softer, with more space

given to well-chosen interviews . The Independent, with its broadsheet

features section, is in a position to use the space to inject a certain

amount of elegance to its treatment of material and chooses subjects


In making its change, the Times hopes to retain individuality by

combining its liking for traditional narrative features - the ’find a

good story and tell it well’ approach - with the stand-out nature and

convenience of a tabloid format.


Richard Preston

Position: Features editor

Circulation: 1,028,965

Capacity: Around five features pages within the newspaper

’Our basic aim is to have consistently well-written features - we do not

have as many as our rivals but I hope the focus and the presentation is


’Now the Times has a separate section it means we have the only features

section within a main newspaper which we think is a virtue. Our readers

say they really appreciate the single section for ease of


If you have a separate section you risk being discarded - you need to

have a very arresting cover.

’For us, features is the heart of the paper rather than an add-on. The

things we do can best be described as human interest.’


Sandra Parsons

Position: Assistant editor (features)

Circulation: 729,140

Capacity: 32-page, tabloid features and arts section

’Going tabloid is a big change for the Times and allows us to do

something that the editor has wanted to do for eight years. That is to

have the features and arts pages in one section with news, business,

foreign, sport and everything else in the main section.

’It allows us to carry significantly more feature pages. We think we

have a more diverse mix than other papers - narrative features,

investigative features, interviews and light style pieces. I want to do

more narrative pieces.

’Although people have less time to read the papers people will invest

time in reading something if it is of a high enough quality.’


Ian Katz

Position: Features editor

Circulation: 399,167

Capacity: Separate, 24-page, tabloid G2 section

’It is certainly flattering that the Times has followed our G2 format,

but what is interesting is that they do not seem to have changed the

content at all - it is an attempt to catch up with us and to address the

fact that their features were buried with the business and other


To some extent we are all reacting to the same news agenda and fighting

for the same interviews but we think we do things other papers would not

- like our recent G2 on race.

’We also hope we are more reactive than the other papers, we often see a

big story coming halfway through the day and turn it around in a few

hours and put it on the cover.’


Lawrence Earle

Position: Features editor

Circulation: 222,544

Capacity: 18-page, broadsheet section

’I am fairly neutral on the question of format - I admire both G2 and

the Telegraph - but I think it is more a question of having imagination

over content and design. We are trying to be as fast off the mark as we

can with subjects and as imaginative as possible.

’We think of ourselves as quirkier and we try to take a sideways view at

a subject. Aside from pieces that are related to news events, we have

regular pages such as fashion, media, health and law. In the old way of

thinking maybe some of these would be for particular audiences - like

maybe fashion for women - but I think boundaries are a lot more blurred


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