The Guardian newspaper could be set to switch from its broadsheet roots to tabloid and outsource its printing to rival publisher News UK as part of its cost-cutting plans, according to reports.
At present Guardian Media Group prints the Guardian and its Sunday counterpart The Observer in mid-sized Berliner format on special presses it bought for £50m, after it scrapped the broadsheet size in 2005. The publisher spent another £30m on new print sites in London's Stratford and in Trafford Park in Manchester.
However, the publisher has failed to stem print declines, with its average newspaper sale down by over 50% since it made the switch to Berliner in 2005, according to ABC, rendering the printing presses expensive and under-used.
As a result, Reuters reports that the publisher is considering outsourcing its printing to News UK’s presses later this year. As part of the move, it will also change its print format to tabloid, the most popular format in British press, the news organisation reports.
News UK's NewsPrinters operation prints The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, as well as The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Financial Times for other publishers.
It forms part of the Guardian’s three-year plan to break even at an operating level, which includes a 20% overall reduction in its cost base by restructuring less profitable parts of the business. In June, it accepted 250 voluntary redundancies as part of its cost-cutting drive.
A spokeperson from The Guardian said: "We don't comment on rumour or speculation."
If true it wouldn't be the first time the two rival publishers have set their differences aside to tackle print declines in collaboration. The publishers are currently involved in a joint publisher initiative, Project Rio, together with Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell, to pool ad sales and sell audiences across the newspapers.
However, Daily Mail publisher DMGT confirmed it had taken a step back in the discussions this month, following concerns from News UK and Northern & Shell as to the viability of the initiative, signaling troubling times ahead.