As The Times this week became the second broadsheet to launch a “compact” edition, The Independent has reported huge sales increases in areas where its tabloid version is available.
Editor Simon Kelner said he expected next week’s ABC figures to show The Independent up 10 per cent year-on-year. In areas where the tabloid version was available, he said the figure was up to 50 per cent.
Some 80,000 copies of the compact Times were available in Greater London from Wednesday. The tabloid Independent is now available in the Meridian, Carlton and Granada TV regions.
Times editor Robert Thomson has not ruled out expanding distribution of the tabloid in the near future.
He said: “We will, over the next couple of weeks, examine how people respond to The Times and react as quickly as we possibly can to the demand, which we anticipate will be considerable.”
Although the launch of the tabloid Times came just seven weeks after the smaller Independent was unveiled, Thomson said the idea had been around for a number of years.
He said: “It genuinely would have been difficult for The Times to have gone first, given the tradition of The Times and the burden of responsibility that comes with the history of the newspaper.
“But having seen the useful market research done by The Independent – and having taken the hex off a broadsheet being tabloid – it made it very clear to us that now was the moment to put into action the plans we have been quietly contemplating for that long period.” He added: “It was before the troubles at [Telegraph Group owner] Hollinger became more obvious, but that was a piece of good fortune that gives us a fair wind.”
Up to 20 extra staff have been taken on to produce the tabloid, which will use shorter versions of some stories used in the full-size Times.
Thomson said: “It’s one thing for The Independent to go tabloid; it’s something completely different for The Times to change format, given that we are the newspaper by which all newspapers around the world are judged.”
Kelner said he believed his paper’s seven-week head start on launching a tabloid gave it a decisive advantage.
He said: “We’ve had seven weeks where our sales have been growing.
Our readers enjoy it – the tabloid is settling down and improving and we are ready to face up to any opposition that we get.
“It’s been a very orchestrated and highly thought-out campaign, in terms of what we have done editorially and what we’ve done in terms of circulation, distribution and marketing.
It’s taken a lot of planning to get all three elements working as well as they do at the moment.”
Asked whether he had any plans to ditch the broadsheet Independent, Kelner said: “We’ve got no plans at the moment – but there will come a tipping point when the tabloid sells more than the broadsheet and we would have think about where we go from that point. But for the foreseeable future we have no plans whatsoever to go fully tabloid.”
By Dominic Ponsford