It was something of a culture shock for many British people when "The Independent", a daily that has been on the newsstands since 1986, was issued in tabloid format for the first time in September 2003. However, regular readers did not have to give up their much loved broadsheet edition, because the paper was printed with the same content in both formats for a nine-month trial period.
Tabloid or broadsheet? It is not only on the beach in a strong wind that the small format has its benefits.
"The Independent" now only available in tabloid format
However, saying "tabloid" in the same breath as "quality newspaper" has, up to now, seemed impossible. After all, the British "tabloids" with lots of stories about sex and crime hardly have the most respectable image.
But when the time-honored "The Times", which first appeared in 1788, also started publishing a smaller version some nine weeks later , as well as its classic broadsheet format, many readers in Great Britain were forced to think again. And those who want to remain loyal to the "Independent" today have no other choice than tabloid format, because on 14 May 2004 this newspaper ended its two-way trial and is now only available in tabloid size – as opposed to the "Times" which is still on the newsstands in two formats.
Acceptance rapidly on the increase
In Spain, for instance, where all significant dailies converted to tabloid format after the death of dictator Franco in 1975, or Norway which has long since been a tabloid country, readers in other countries had to get used to the new format first. Apparently they appear to be doing so very quickly. So, after the launch of the "Indy", as the mini-format is affectionately known in the UK, the total circulation of the "Independent" has risen by a remarkable 15 percent – in fact its highest level since 1997. And even the "Times" has been able to stop the slide in circulation figures it had been suffering in recent years, actually managing a 1 percent increase.
"Blick": only six-week trial phase
"Blick", Switzerland's daily with the largest circulation, also had a similar experience. After the launch of a parallel tabloid edition, individual sales of this popular paper rose by over 5 percent. And like "The Independent", "Blick" is also only issued in tabloid format. However, the trial phase with two editions was considerably shorter in the case of the leading Swiss media concern, Ringier. After just six weeks, broadsheet format was already history. In fact with 69 percent, the tabloids were rapidly displacing the traditional form.
However, Bernhard Weissberg, who runs the Newspaper Division of the Ringier Group, thinks it was a good thing that the newspaper came out in both formats for a month and a half. "We were able to demonstrate that the large and small editions of 'Blick' had exactly the same content."
Free papers take the lead
The trendsetters of this new tabloid wave were free papers that originated in Sweden and can now be found in many large cities and are predominantly full of ads. So within a period of a few years, "20 Minuten" crept into the position of the second most read newspaper in Switzerland.
It was primarily young people, who had previously not read a daily newspaper, and commuters that found the new format appealing. This has undisputable advantages in trains, trams and buses. Because, as one media journalist put it recently, albeit somewhat over the top, a broadsheet newspaper "can only be held opened fully by someone with the arm-span of a fully-grown pterodactyl".
Tabloid only in 20 years?
Tabloid tests also started this year in Germany, the leading newspaper market in Europe. On May 24th, market leader Axel Springer launched "Welt Kompakt" in Dusseldorf at a competitive price of 50 cents. The trial run of the smaller version of "Die Welt", originally set for eight weeks, has meanwhile been extended and now includes other metropolitan areas.
In Cottbus on May 10th, the Holtzbrinck publishing group put the title "20 Cent" onto the market in tabloid format. This offshoot of the "Lausitzer Rundschau" was designed according to Germany's cheapest newspaper's own information, by Mario Garcia. The well-known American newspaper designer is in no doubt: "In 20 years, all newspapers will appear in tabloid format."
Reliable inserting also with tabloid format
Muller Martini has a wealth of experience in the production of tabloid newspapers – especially those coming from the Spanish market. In the "NewsLiner-A" and "SLS3000", newspapers are placed reliably and carefully in the pocket and held firmly with clamps. On the other hand, these two high-performance inserting systems are characterized by a reliable opening procedure. The linear inserting system also enables loading from both sides. Thanks to the unique pocket design, the SLS3000, which was presented to the European public for the first time at the last IFRA exhibition in Leipzig, can even produce bulky weekend editions with up to 1,200 tabloid pages.
Tabloid as "newspaper in a newspaper"
The "Aargauer Zeitung", which belongs to the "MittellandZeitung" association in Switzerland and is produced in Aarau in a Muller Martini mailroom, is following a third route as regards format. Since 1 May 2004, the jacket has in fact appeared in broadsheet format, whereas the regional editions inserted in it are tabloid. Service Manager, Mani Pfulg tells us, "With the new format, we wanted to place greater importance on our regions." The "newspaper in a newspaper" has been well received by the readership. Mani Pfulg: "The response to the new format has been overwhelmingly positive."
The regional editions are printed between 6:00pm and 10:30pm, wound onto Muller Martini's "FlexiRolls" for temporary storage, then unwound again after midnight and fed to the main jacket. Also, with the new product size, the "AZ" takes half an hour less to print, so it is even more current.