Strong speculation persists that the Guardian is set to undertake one of its most dramatic shifts in its history as it intends to move away from the current Berliner format to a more traditional tabloid style in order to cut costs.
According to reports, which have yet to be confirmed officially, the move by the last UK publication to print in the format will aim to fall in line with more traditional printing, and will also see it outsource that function to Trinity Mirror.
The Drum spoke to a number of senior media professionals for their reaction to the move.
Nick Baughan, chief executive officer, Maxus UK
This feels like an extremely sensible and pragmatic measure for the Guardian to take. The risk of alienating existing print readers by a format change is minimal and the market will welcome more standardisation.
Pippa Glucklich, chief executive, Starcom UK
Although unconfirmed, if true this makes a lot of sense for the Guardian brand. It allows them to present their brand of journalism in a more modern and financially viable print format, while creating even greater space for them to invest in their digital first approach, where they have had some success amongst an increasingly engaged and global audience. The recent election result arguably puts them in a strong position given their political differentiation in the marketplace; therefore modernising their print format may well help widen their appeal to a new breed of reader.
Chris Hirst, chief executive UK and Europe, Havas
The Guardian is now a globally distinctive brand, but a brand still resting on an increasingly shaky foundation - UK print sales. This move is clearly driven by cost, and for millions who only access it online, will be almost unnoticed. However, the bigger question is, does this cost saving simply delay the day when a more fundamental and imaginative solution will be needed to keep the brand alive.
Richard Cross, associate director investment, MediaCom
With Guardian News Media (GNM) looking to further reduce their substantial annual losses the decision to outsource the printing of their newspapers and the subsequent reduction to a standard tabloid format is logical beyond question. GNM are in the midst of a three-year plan to achieve financial sustainability so this was an obvious course of action to take and one we hope can help stem the losses that have become a standard part of the narrative for GMG over the past decade or so.
When the Berliner size launched the Guardian was still selling well over 350,000 copies daily. At the time it was reported members of the Scott Trust wanted to go straight to tabloid format but this was rejected by Alan Rusbridger. It has proven to be an extravagance that did not deliver and the £62m printing presses that will lie dormant are another expensive symbol of the gambles made by the former regime. I am sure there will be a buyer somewhere on the continent for the actual presses but no doubt the losses will be savage for an 11 year dalliance with the Berliner.
When it was selling significant numbers, the USP that the Berliner format provided was very much thought of as a positive by agencies and client alike. It was something different and innovative in a market that had taken to downsizing formats to seek a viable future. That they had made such an outlay on presses was seen as a gamble at the time but there was a confidence that the format and the new paper technologies that came with it would pay for itself. The fact that the Guardian then adopted a ‘digital first’ strategy in 2011 highlights the contradictory thinking that has plagued GNM.
The fact that they are not working with News UK in their state of the art Broxbourne site is a surprise but also not a surprise – no self-respecting Guardianista can be seen to be supporting the Murdoch empire in any possible way.
Steven Ballinger, managing director, Amplifi
Reducing printing and production costs is a sensible business decision by the Guardian . It will help to make their business more financially sustainable in the longer term and mean they can continue to invest in good quality journalism. This can only be a good thing for clients and consumers.
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