A brief should be brief When we conducted the often-quoted Poynter Institute EyeTracking Research, it became obvious that briefs—those short and nicely packaged columns that run up and down on the page— enjoy some of the highest readership. More than 69 percent of all the briefs that appeared were read in their entirety. We should incorporate briefs whenever possible, and give them a prominent place on the page. Most newspapers run brief columns vertically, usually on the outside of the page, with small, bold headlines and type set ragged right, to distinguish them from regular text. But at The Wall Street Journal Europe, the new design calls for brief columns to appear anywhere but on the edge, making them a more integral part of the page. News websites have enhanced the status of briefs. A new generation of readers is used to scanning and scrolling up and down to get summaries of stories they may eventually read in their entirety. When those readers transfer to print, they expect the same, smooth type of visual “scrolling.” There remains a consistent problem with briefs, however. In many newspapers, they are not brief enough. A brief should be what the term implies: not more than fifteen to twenty lines in a one-column setting. If more space is needed, then the editor should create a compact story. Long briefs are unfair to the reader—and the story.
Reaffirmation news: Readers come to their newspaper to discover what they donâ€™t know or to reaffirm what they already heardelsewhere. Briefs rank among the most often read items in the newspaper. Editors know that these short items are best utilized with reaffirmation news. The Wall Street Journal Europe runs briefs on almost every page, complementing text-driven pages of news. 19