The Guardian has taken of one of the most significant format shifts since its foundation nearly 200 years ago with a move away from its current European-style ‘Berliner’ format to standardised tabloid dimensions.
Driven by a need to slash costs the move will see the Guardian outsource its print operations to Trinity Mirror whose presses are configured for the red tops, resulting in the former broadsheet shrinking to fit within its new smaller confines.
First reported by the Telegraph last week the migration is being seen as vital to the Guardian’s future which, in common with much of the rest of the print industry, has been nursing heavy losses as it adapts to the new economics of digital publishing – squandering £37.8m over the past year alone.
Last year the business reduced its losses from around £56m ahead of beginning its three year plan to make the Guardian financially sustainable going forward.
David Pemsel, chief executive, Guardian Media Group, said: “This is an important step in our three-year transformation plan. More people are reading and supporting our journalism than ever before, but the print industry continues to evolve, and we must evolve with it. We plan to continue the Guardian’s record of producing bold, brilliantly designed award-winning print journalism.
“This will impact a number of our print site colleagues and we will honour our commitments to them as part of the transition process to Trinity Mirror.”
Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief, Guardian News & Media, said: “The Berliner is a beautiful format which has served our readers brilliantly for 12 years but we know that it is our award-winning, quality, independent journalism that our readers value most, rather than the shape or size of the newspapers.
“We are going to create a new look tabloid Guardian and Observer that are bold, striking and beautiful - and which still contain the agenda-setting journalism for which we’re renowned."
The Guardian is the only UK title to adopt the Berliner format, taller than a tabloid but narrower than a standard broadsheet newspaper, after it forked out £50m in 2005 for three specialized presses – all of which will now be scrapped or sold.
At the time the Guardian said it was foregoing the ‘easy short-term tabloid route’ but now, 12 years later, it is doing precisely that in a last throw of the dice to keep print journalism alive having seen circulation collapse from 341,000 copies in April 2005 to just 154,000 in April this year.
Despite these wider shifts print advertising and newsstand sales still account for 60% of total revenues, which reached £209.5m over the year to April 2016 as the paper faces tougher digital competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.
The contract with Trinity Mirror will take effect from early 2018 following a consultation period involving those whose jobs may be affected as a result of the move.