From the September issue, the Journal and Journal Online will have a new design and will work harder together as a package for readers

From next month, the Journal is changing. A new format, new design and closer tie-in with the Journal Online will give the magazine a sharper focus but also more flexibility in deployment of copy.

The perfect-bound magazine will be replaced by a saddle stitched format, as used by many leading titles. A base length of 48 pages will expand as content requires, while more articles will also be published as “online exclusive”, with clear signposts from the magazine.

The new format will also mean significant production savings as the Journal aims to return to break-even in the current economic climate.

Important roles

In planning the changes, regard has been paid to the recent reader survey, which attracted nearly 1,000 responses, spread across all PQE sectors and also reflecting the gender balance and the proportions of in-house and private practice.

At least half of respondents see the Journal as having a “very important” role in keeping them up to date with legal changes, and with professional practice matters. Adding those who checked “quite important” gives respective totals of 89.2% and 92.0%. Keeping up to date with what’s happening in the profession also scored over 90% (91.2%, actually).

Not surprisingly, more junior lawyers put more emphasis on the Journal (including the website: as a medium for job vacancies: 84.2% of the 0-5 PQE band, but only 39.5% of the 20+, see this as very or quite important.

Measure of success

Views as to how well the Journal achieves these objectives provide strong returns. As many as 94.3% agree or strongly agree that it provides useful and relevant legal briefings, and 93.9% that it has good advice on professional practice. Over 90% also rate it for information about the Society, and for coverage of changes in the profession. As a platform for debate it is rated by 78.1% (a number of individuals want to see more letters published, but that needs more of you to write in!); and 77.1% expect to use it if looking for a new job.

Editorial standards attracted equally favourable ratings. “Overall, the quality of the Journal is high” won 93.4% support (“agree” and “strongly agree” combined); “Articles give me good information”, 94.4%; “You can trust what you read”, 95.2%; and “The Journal gives a fair and balanced account of events”, 89.4%. (A few suggested there is a pro-Society bias, but the Journal does attempt to reflect all shades of opinion.)

Journal Online

Surprisingly, some solicitors claim to have been unaware of the existence of the Journal Online website – despite its web address appearing at the foot of every spread of the magazine, among other references. Come the relaunch, it will be difficult to miss, as there will be numerous pointers to where magazine and website copy link up – not to mention a rather neat way (we think!) of linking from one to the other.

Those who use the website, rate it: over 90% agree that news coverage is concise, balanced and covers the essential items; and 89.8% rate the site overall as an important addition to the magazine, with 88% saying it is easy to find your way around. Over 39% “strongly agree” and 49% “agree” that if they were looking for something in a back issue they would try the website first.

And with over half of respondents now having a BlackBerry, iPhone etc, and approaching 10% a tablet such as an iPad, the new mobile website is set to have a growing market.

The redesign

Although over 86% overall like the current appearance of the magazine, a minority are against the use of stock images and also the use of coloured backgrounds for some text. The new design will take account of these views, while continuing to offer a layout that will enhance the impact of each feature.

With the reduced page extent of the magazine and more content becoming online exclusive, we will prioritise the editorial content that has attracted the highest ratings. Thus we will aim to keep a range of features on legal developments, professional practice and changes in the profession, reducing the average length in order to provide a sharper focus on key issues while keeping a range of contributions in the magazine.

We have decided that it is not necessary to continue with the website review, and the Sidelines section will become a single page’s worth of shorter items, including the archive section and selected leisure reading.

Of course some sections are deliberately designed to appeal to a particular sector of the profession, such as the property and in-house pages, and these will be retained. (That said, it can be difficult to decide whether copy should go in, say, the in-house section, perhaps because although written by an in-house lawyer it is of likely interest to other sectors – see, for example, the investment services article at p 16 of this month’s issue.)

We await reader feedback with interest.

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