Rusbridger: 'Wait until the phoney war is over'

Switch to compact: ‘irreversible’

As The Guardian this week ruled out a switch to tabloid format, editor Alan Rusbridger predicted that both The Times and The Independent would be forced to ditch their broadsheet versions altogether.

He said: “Everyone knows the Indy is going to end up a tabloid and you also assume The Times will too. They can’t abandon the tabloid now and they can’t go back to broadsheet: the economics of dual publishing are so prohibitive. It’s not a sustainable publishing model.

“Both titles have taken an irreversible step towards going tabloid – it’s just a matter of time.”

Circulation figures released this week reveal that The Independent has gained significant ground on The Guardian since it launched a tabloid version last September. It was up 12.1 per cent in January to 248,876 – the only broadsheet to record a year-onyear rise.

Rusbridger admitted the threat posed by the compacts had prompted The Guardian to perform extensive research, including the production of two dummies.

But he said: “The longer we thought about it the more it became apparent that this was going to be an irreversible step. We stopped thinking of it as something we had to react to immediately – this is about the next generation for all of us.

“We accepted the inevitable in terms of a short-term ABC hit, but we’ve done no extra marketing over the past four or five months. The Times and The Indy have been marketing a great deal – they’ve had double space in newsagents, which they won’t have when they switch off the broadsheet.

“The wind is all with them while this phoney war is going on. But it is a phoney war – the real test is when they turn off their broadsheets.

Then we’ll have a level playing field again.”

Rusbridger said The Guardian was exploring a “number of other options” which The Times and Independent have “closed down” by going tabloid, but he refused to give details.

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