The New York Times had an interesting piece this week that, while not directly applicable to Washington (the piece discussed Britian’s The Guardian newspaper and its recent switch–at the jaw-dropping cost of $142 million–from broadsheet to “Berliner” size…more on that in a second…), does provide some insight into some DC-related issues (and proves that, even an ocean away, newshounds–and those who pay/own them–struggle with the same issues as we Americans).
The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, said:
“if you got all the editors to speak honestly, they would say that the broadsheet has had its day.”
“It feels too big, too unwieldy, too old-fashioned. We didn’t need persuading that we would change. The only question is, would you follow what the others had done’ – that is, go tabloid – ‘or choose the Berliner size.'”
The dilemmas in Britain, according to the NYT piece, doesn’t sound all that different than what news outlets face in DC’s market.
“Britain has one of the world’s toughest, scrappiest newspaper markets. Some 11 daily national newspapers fight it out on the newsstands every day, often peddling their wares like gaudy streetwalkers, luring readers in with discounts, contests, prizes, giveaways, tie-ins to consumer products, huge stories about diet and fashion and splashy “exclusive” headlines about louche celebrity behavior.”
Of course, the big difference is that Britain’s papers (the Times, the Independent and now the Guardian) have largely just shrunk their papers, not roll out separate tabloid entitities (a la the Express and Examiner). So, among the big broadsheets (namely the Post, which seems the most troubled and concerned with its declining readership and how to reverse the downward trend), is simply shrinking the size being considered? For the British, it seems to be the primary option.
(Oh yeah, here’s what the Berliner size is: “A Berliner, in newspaper terms, means a Continental-style paper, along the lines of Le Monde in France, which folds in half like a broadsheet but opens up like a tabloid.”)