Flying start

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian’s relaunch in Berliner format is estimated by the paper
to have given it a 40 per cent sales boost on Monday – which equates to
total circulation nudging the halfmillion mark.

Anecdotal evidence from newsagents suggests that The Guardian has
taken sales in the early days of its new look from both The Independent
and The Times. The total printrun on day one was boosted to 630,000.

But
Independent editor Simon Kelner said he was satisfied with the way his
paper’s sale has held up so far. And he revealed that on Saturday The
Independent had its biggest daily sale since it was taken over by
Independent News & Media in 1998.

According to The Guardian,
reader response on the first day of the relaunch was overwhelmingly
good – out of 800 e-mails, 75 to 80 per cent were said to be positive.

The
decision to drop the Doonesbury cartoon strip from G2 resulted in 500
complaints from readers, with the result that it is to be reinstated
from next week.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: “It’s
exceeded all our expectations, I think it’s probably the most
successful relaunch of a national newspaper.”

Early criticisms of
the new design have included comments that the front page is
“cluttered” and that the headline font is too thin.

David
Hillman, who conducted the last Guardian redesign in 1988, said he
thought the headline typeface was “childish” and had the effect of
creating headlines that don’t fit.

Rusbridger said: “The front
may look cluttered to people accustomed to UK tabs, but to a reader of
up-market continental papers, it would not be surprising.

“It enables us to present a range of stories and thereby a balanced view of the complexity of the day’s news.”

He
said that the front is also flexible and will respond when bigger
stories happen, adding, “it will continue to change – and surprise”.

Regarding
the new lighter headline typeface he said: “Bold news headlines are now
an archaism, developed in the twentieth century when newspapers were
the main providers of news. Readers who get news from TV, radio and the
internet don’t need to be shouted at any more. Egyptian Regular is more
pleasurable and calmer to read. But when big (for big events) it can
still look tough.”

Times editor Robert Thomson condemned the
new-look Guardian as “aspiring to be an installation in the Design
Museum” and “designed by designers, for designers”.

Rusbridger
dismissed this as “silly sniping” and said: “Everybody’s now used
to welldesigned (attractive and functional) products. Why should
newspapers be different? Shabbiness is not – despite what some
editors seem to think – a virtue.

“It’s
also untrue. We started developing text typesetting and page makeup
with readability at the front of our minds, and the typeface was
developed for legibility as well as beauty. In truth it was designed by
designers for readers. Any problem with that?”

The Independent
has gained readers mainly at the expense of The Guardian over the last
two years, since it launched in tabloid format.

Editor Kelner
said early indications of his paper’s sales this week are that they are
“ahead of where we expected them to be, we are very pleased”.

Helped
by a free DVD on Saturday of the film My Life as a Dog, The Independent
was up 85,000 on the week before to around 375,000. Kelner said The
Independent’s Saturday sale is also being boosted by the success of its
Super Sudoku competition, which attracts 3,000 to 4,000 entries.

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