The Oxford Times is the latest regional newspaper to go tabloid, bringing the number of UK paid-for regional titles that have made the switch in the past year to six.
The Newsquest-owned weekly is set to publish in its smaller format on 7 March and editor Derek Holmes stressed that the paper’s new ‘compact’version would still cater for the paper’s intelligent audience.
‘The national broadsheet market has changed significantly in the past few years, with The Independent and The Times going compact and The Guardian going Berliner,’he said.
‘Our readership is not typical of a local weekly paper – it’s very much made up of people who read the quality nationals.
‘We do tend to appeal to the quality marketâ€¦ and it’s not really a surprise that our readership has now said that the compact is accepted as the way ahead.
‘We’re not doing down-market; we’re changing size, but the value and quality of what we do will remain exactly the same.’
Holmes said that as The Oxford Times’s sister daily paper, the Mail, was a tabloid based in the same office, Times reporters would not find the change so difficult. He said that stories would be about 15 per cent shorter on tabloid pages than in the old broadsheet design.
Newsquest Oxfordshire carried out market research last autumn that confirmed the popularity of a smaller format Times. Similar research in 2005 was less conclusive and the project was shelved.
At the same time the paper had a major redesign with new fonts and layout plans designed by Peter Sands from the PA Editorial Training Centre, which it will retain in the tabloid version along with its masthead.
The Times’s paid-for sale in the most recent set of ABC figures was 25,178, a drop of 6.4 per cent year on year.
Last week, the Surrey Mirror series made the change to tabloid as did the Richmond and Twickenham Times in January. In the past 12 months, the Wakefield Express, Northern Echo and the Halifax Evening Courier have all gone tabloid.