How Georgia rules the newspaper web fonts

What have the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, FT and Independent got in common (aside from being UK newspapers)? Politically? Not much. Ownership? Couldn’t be more different. Style? Now you are getting somewhere.

If you’ve ever surfed a few news websites and had a sense of deja vu, that’s because you have seen it before. All the papers listed above use Georgia as their main headline font – and most use it for the text as well.

While print editions of newspapers try their best to look different, it seems all broadsheet or quality press outfits online look the same. Georgia everywhere. It’s true of my employer, the FT, which has adopted the font in its last redesign, and it’s true of most US papers too.

Interestingly, the tabloid press are keener on Arial and other sans-serif (ie non-twiddly) fonts.

So why are the newspaper sites gravitating to one font? Georgia is a classy font, but why is it the be-all and end-all?

One reason is web standards. If you want a consistent look for your site, you have to use a font that is compatible with all browsers and devices, so you can be sure of your how it renders, and Georgia (along with Arial and a few others) is one of those ‘base’ fonts.

But this is crazy. In this web environment, you can pick any font using css (stylesheets) and tell the browser what to do if it doesn’t recognise that font. It’s just a list – you could start with something exotic, and then put Georgia as the backup. I’m baffled as to why sites don’t do this. The spacing issue isn’t an issue, as headlines change in length all the time. You can even specify different stylesheets for different devices if you need. The world has moved on, but we are retreating to a handful of fonts.

And before you point it out, yes, I’ve used Georgia as the font for this blog. I just like it, but maybe that’s the reason – it’s just really really good. In which case, hats off to Matthew Carter, who invented it (along with loads of other fonts.)

Here’s a quick rundown (not comprehensive) of who is using which font:

Georgia (for headlines at least):
- Guardian
- Independent
- FT
- The Times
- Telegraph
- Wall Street Journal
- International Herald Tribune
- NYTimes
- LA Times
- Washington Post
- New Statesman
- Time – Georgia and Arial mixed

Arial:
- Daily Mail
- USA Today
- The Onion
- Reuters and Bloomberg use Arial in their sites (Bloomberg uses a Georgia derivative in its terminals)

Economist uses Verdana. Good for the Economist. A bit different.

This entry was posted in Best, Ideas, Journalism, Media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to How Georgia rules the newspaper web fonts

  1. Calvin Ku says:

    I was surfing on the web to see what typefaces are used in the newspaper websites as I wanted to know what’s best for extended body text on the screen. After investigating The New York Times, The Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal and Telegraph I was totally speechless and I had no idea why they all picked Georgia (tho I do agree it’s pretty). Thanks for the enlightening article!

    By the way, I was also quite surprised to find some newspaper websites use sans-serif fonts for their body text. I’ve always thought sans-serif are more legible for the title but when it comes to the readability of the body text serif fonts are the better option, and personally I do think they are easier for the eye for extended text.

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  3. Ben says:

    So are you just refering to what font-family these newspapers have used for there websites? Because The Times doesn’t use Georgia, it uses Times New Roman, that typeface was made for the Times by Monotype. They even made a special version of Times New Roman for use on tablets.

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  6. Rajeev Prakash says:

    Information is wonderful. Georgia is really a good font. I have been using it since longtime. Hats-off to Matthew Carter.

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