A 162-year-old newspaper has today gone tabloid for the first time in its history.
The Newsquest-owned Darlington and Stockton Times, a paid-for weekly that covers the North East and North Yorkshire, has made the change two years after its sister paper, The Northern Echo.
The change also coincides with the launch of a new edition – the North Yorkshire version is now split between Richmond and Dales, and Hambleton, the area around Northallerton.
Editor Malcolm Warne said the move is accompanied by investment in the title which will help it weather the current economic storm.
He said: “The relaunch of the dedicated Richmond and the Yorkshire Dales means we can offer a more focused local news service – there’s an additional cost to that, but we’ve been able to make that investment for the benefit of the paper.”
The paper is also expanding its Weekend Times features section from four broadsheet pages to 12 tabloid ones.
On the tabloid switch he said: “The Northern Echo has made a successful conversion, and I’m sure editor Peter Barron had the same concerns about its traditional readers and The Echo going downmarket. The same argument could apply to the D&S.
“It is fair to say that when we first discussed the issue I was sceptical about it. I thought the D&S readers would be more fearful of the change.
“In fact, the research we carried out over a full year proved that perceptions about tabloid or compact formats have changed quite dramatically.
“I was genuinely surprised at how few people among traditional readers said we could not do it, or that it would be beyond the pale.
“The more people I talked to, the more convinced I became that it was a good move to make.”
When asked about the current challenges facing the regional press, he said: “It’s bloody tough – the comparisons on this time last year are quite frightening.”
But he added: “I still think that there’s a role for very local newspapers that really work that sort of grassroots level, and there’s advertising support for that sort of sort of journalism.
“We need keep our core news gathering structures in place while we weather the storm, whilst looking for as cost-effective way of producing a newspaper as we can.”
The Darlington and Stockton Times was first published on Saturday, 2 October, 1847, from Barnard Castle, County Durham.
Its full title was Darlington and Stockton Times, and Barnard Castle, Richmond, Auckland, Middlesborough (sic), Hartlepool, Teesdale and Swaledale Journal.
It spent only three months in Barnard Castle before moving to Darlington, where it is still based.
In the last six months of 2008, the paper had an ABC circulation of 25,661, down from 27,577 in the same period in 2007.