‘Guardian’ Gets Trimmer, Launches Berliner Format

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By: CATHERINE McALOON, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Britain’s Guardian newspaper launched its trimmer format Monday with color on every page, upping the competition with other British broadsheets that have scaled down in recent years.

The Guardian is the third major British paper to move to a smaller, more commuter-friendly format in a bid to reverse slumping sales. It followed The Times and The Independent in switching to tabloid format.

However, The Guardian has opted for a continental compromise, a format slightly larger than a tabloid and known as the “Berliner.”

The “Berliner,” with a page size of 12.4 by 18.5 inches, is not actually used by any newspapers in the German capital but is the choice of the French newspaper Le Monde, Italian daily La Repubblica, and the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia. A standard broadsheet measures 14.5 by 23.5 inches and an average tabloid, 11.5 by 14.7 inches.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the format change from broadsheet “is in response to unambiguous research, which shows that readers increasingly find broadsheet newspapers difficult to handle in many everyday situations, including commuting to work.”

The Guardian, with average Monday-Saturday circulation of 358,000 in July, trails the broadsheet Daily Telegraph (912,000) and The Times (698,000) and has, like its rivals, recorded slumping sales figures in the past decade.

In 1995, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the averages were 1.02 million for The Daily Telegraph, 658,000 for The Times and 397,000 for The Guardian.

The British press has traditionally been divided between the “serious” broadsheets and the lively but less intellectual tabloids, with their emphasis on sports, celebrities, and sex.

The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times are the only remaining daily national broadsheets, though, with The Sunday Times and the Guardian’s stablemate, The Observer, joining The Sunday Telegraph as weekend broadsheets.

All newspapers in Britain, one of the world’s most competitive markets, have had declining readership amid an influx of free commuter newspapers and the advent of the Internet and 24 hour news channels.

The Guardian’s new format launch is the fruit of an 80-million-pound ($147 million) redesign and the paper has imported three new printing presses from Germany.

The Independent reported that after switching to the smaller format in September 2003, it has seen its sales grow by almost 20%. The Times said its sales grew by 4.5% in the 12 months after introducing a tabloid edition.

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More information on The Guardian’s format switch, including a downloadable PDF file of the first issue, can be found here.

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