The Globe and Mail's Doug Saunders has reported from Britain on the trend of former broadsheet papers moving to the tabloid size — and adopting some tabloid design practices in the process. It's resulted in some impressive circulation turn-arounds.
Here's an excerpt:
Until a few months ago, Britain's endless newspaper wars were fought on two fronts: On the polite, genteel expanses of the broadsheets, and on the far smaller pages of the noisy, popular tabloids. It was class and trash, and never betwixt did they meet.
But this month, the war went nuclear. The boundaries between tabloid and broadsheet have disappeared, and publishers around the world have watched the British newspaper industry learn that smaller is very often better.
The Times of London, the most legendary of broadsheets, won thousands of new readers in the latest surveys by abandoning its tradition and becoming a full-fledged tabloid. And the greatest readership growth in Britain this year has been registered by The Independent, a left-wing and formerly intellectual broadsheet that nearly went out of business before it adopted the small pages and loud, sensationalist tones of a tabloid.
In the past year, The Independent has seen its circulation grow about 19 per cent, to almost 200,000 (paid circulation, excluding multiple copy sales, in the United Kingdom and Ireland).
The Times grew by almost 5 per cent, to 587,000, according to figures released last week by Britain's Audit Bureau of Circulations. Every other paper in Britain saw its circulation fall — especially the remaining three broadsheets, the Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times, which each lost tens of thousands of readers.
Being a bit of a webhead, I found this intriguing. The person speaking is Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of The Times:
To Mr. Thomson of The Times, the lesson has been to make the newspaper look more like an Internet screen on a computer, rather than vice versa.
“We have to understand that for a great many of our readers, the Internet is part of their daily experience, and I think that in the past, newspapers have been rather arrogant about this, attempting to fashion websites that look like newspapers,” he said. “To be honest, we've reached a point where newspapers, in terms of how they look, have to be influenced by Internet iconography. I would argue that the compact [format], while not the same size as a computer screen, has a look of familiarity to the digital reader.”