11. The “flatplan”

For print journalists, the flatplan is a sort of educational game. It’s a visual representation, in the form of a comic strip, on paper, on screen or projected onto a wall like a film, of what the finished newspaper will feature, on a page-by-page basis. This overview gives an early visual indication of how the editorial production will be distributed and prioritised from the first page to the last.


Not all pages of a newspaper have the same visual impact.

The recto page naturally catches the reader’s eye, while they need to turn the page to see the verso page.

Text on odd-numbered pages is more often noticed than text on even-numbered pages.

The most attention-grabbing pages are, of course, the front page, the window into the newspaper, along with pages 3, 5, 7, etc. These are mainly considered the newspaper’s “hotpages, i.e. those used to cover breaking news.

Conversely, the even-numbered pages, i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. are dedicated to breakovers from the main articles and secondary stories. They make up the newspaper’s “coldpages, i.e. those used to cover less urgent stories.

Two other areas in every newspaper really capture the reader’s attention: the double-page centre spread and the back page.

The double-page centre spread is the best place for showcasing long-read articles. It is reserved for extensive reports, investigations, features, profiles and comprehensive interviews.

The back page, often the last to be completed, generally covers last-minute reports. Similarly to the front page, it is also a prime choice for highlighting editorials and cartoons.


Differentiating between “hot” and “cold” pages is not simply a basic approach to treating news based on its “temperature”. It also allows copywriting to be spread out throughout the day to avoid bottlenecks at the deadline. Many stories can be written in advance and included in the flatplan several hours before going to print if meticulous pre-planning is in place and the timetable adhered to. These stories may include those appearing on the double-page centre spread, stories that can be published at any time, magazine stories or secondary stories on even-numbered pages. Production that is spread out will guarantee high-quality content.


A small local daily newspaper’s flatplan typically covers 12 pages. This page numbering can be freely adapted and doubled (24 pages) for a large local daily newspaper, tripled (36 pages) for a regional daily newspaper or quadrupled (48 pages) for a national daily newspaper. Every flatplan is subdivided according to the news and the distribution of work. It has as many hot pages as cold ones to make it easier to cover current events.

Small local daily newspaper

  • Front page: main story: headline (“Banker Mark Pesos abducted”), initial reading level (lead paragraph summarising the story, referring the reader to what is inside the paper + photo or cartoon).
  • Page 2: pre-edited page focusing on “useful news”, such as “readers’ correspondence” for instance.
  • Page 3: continuation of the cover story with another headline: “Abductions of businessmen on the rise”… And a sub-heading: “Police chief explains this phenomenon” (hot page).
  • Page 4: Neighbourhood life (cold page).
  • Page 5: Neighbourhood life (hot page).
  • Pages 6-7, double-page centre spread:local news report, feature or investigation (cold page).
  • Page 8: Business (hot page).
  • Page 9:Culture (cold page).
  • Page 10: Sports (hot page).
  • Page 11: Human interest stories (hot page).
  • Page 12: Daily profile (cold copy), short column for last-minute news (hot copy).


Template flatplan adapted to a national daily newspaper (one third of cold pages)

  • Front page: window into the paper’s features.
  • Page 2: human interest stories.
  • Page 3: continuation of the front page.
  • Pages 4, 5, 6: foreign affairs (including two cold pages).
  • Pages 7, 8, 9: domestic affairs (including one cold page).
  • Pages 10, 11: society (including one cold page).
  • Pages 12, 13: double-page centre spread.
  • Pages 14, 15: business and society.
  • Pages 16, 17: culture (including one cold page).
  • Pages 18, 19: sports (including one cold page).
  • Pages 20, 21, 22: useful news (including two cold pages).
  • Page 23: leisure, TV and radio listings, games.
  • Page 24: last-minute news.


Adjusting the flatplan to the news is made simpler thanks to the work undertaken by the first journalists to enter the office in each department or section, who are selected on a rotating basis. Their role is to allocate the work to each member of their team. They sort out wire stories and online news and receive official press releases and correspondence. This saves everybody’s time and improves the flatplan.