Guardian editor admits format 'may not remain'

Rusbridger: did not deny rumours

As The Guardian slipped dangerously elow its previously rock-solid 400,000 circulation benchmark, speculation has intensified that the newspaper will change format.

Editor Alan Rusbridger has ruled out following The Independent into tabloid territory, but said changes are on the way.

This leaves the possibility the paper will change to a European Berlinerstyle format – midway between broadsheet and tabloid.

This week, Rusbridger told Press Gazette: “Generally we are feeling very confident, we’ve looked at tabloids and we think that’s an interesting new market opening up, but it’s not a market we are comfortable in.

“By this time next year we will have done something which is different and new and people will recognise it as being true to The Guardian and quite surprising.”

When asked if the paper was switching to the Berliner size, he refused to confirm or deny it.

Speaking to the Financial Times earlier this week, Rusbridger said: “There is something we will not talk about at the moment because it is not sensible. We may not remain exactly the same size.”

He said: “What we are proposing is not expensive compared with what we spend on the web.”

Audited circulation figures for February show The Independent continuing to profit from its switch on 30 September to offering a tabloid version. Excluding bulk sales, The Independent was up 19.97 per cent yearonyear to 222,799 and The Guardian was down 10.51 per cent to 352,005.

Design expert Simon Esterson, who launched G2 as the paper’s art director, said going tabloid “plunges it into a market which is going to have The Independent, some of The Times readership, some of the Mail readership and some of the Express readership”.

He said: “I think it is better holding back and doing something more exciting. More exciting means press engineering, which all takes time.”

Printing World magazine technical editor Rod Hayes said he would be surprised if The Guardian opted for a Berliner format.

He said: “If The Guardian wanted to change to a Berliner format, it would really have to change the size of the press.

“It would involve a great deal of investment in new plant and equipment – it would probably even involve starting at a new greenfield site. It’s not a simple thing to do.

“There’s a reasonable amount of spare trade capacity around the country – you could leave your existing print press and in the meantime rip out your presses and put in a new format.”

But Hayes estimated that this could take two years and cost more than £100m.

By Dominic Ponsford

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