Peter Cole On The Press: Downsized, upmarket and making the red-tops blush

The soaring sales figures of the new compact papers suggest a brighter future for upmarket journalism

The evidence continues to mount. If this were a scientific experiment, where we were gathering more and more evidence to establish beyond doubt the link between a set of circumstances and a disease, or a drug and a cure, we would have reached the stage by now of being able to say, if not QED, then certainly that all the evidence points in the same direction. In our case, reducing size increases sales.

And what about a further and even cheerier hypothesis? That serious newspapers are the future, while the tabloid end of the market is shrinking.

The first of these is less contentious. During the past two months, we have had two more relaunches of quality broadsheet newspapers in a smaller size. The Guardian has taken the unique (in Britain) route of the Berliner format (bigger than tabloid, smaller than broadsheet). And The Independent on Sunday (IoS) has finally followed its daily stablemate, which started the whole revolution, by also adopting the compact, or tabloid, dimensions.

Result? On the basis of the audited circulation figures for October, The Guardian is selling 6.6 per cent more copies than in October last year, The Independent on Sunday 7.3 per cent more. These are good figures. The Guardian, in the daily quality market, had been losing circulation badly since The Independent and Times compact launches two years ago. In its last month as a broadsheet, it sold around 340,000 copies a day. To put on 60,000 and more through a relaunch is impressive. The Independent on Sunday had been hanging around the 200,000 mark for some time, but downsizing immediately added 30,000, proportionately much the same as The Guardian.

For the first two weeks of October, the IoS was still a broadsheet, which would have had the effect of depressing the figure for the whole month. Balance against that the sampling effect: the relaunch is talked about and accompanied by marketing and promotion, causing new readers to try the paper. Not all of them stick. However, the new Guardian was in the same situation the previous month, with two weeks a broadsheet, but lots of publicity. Its big circulation gain held for the second monthly figures.

On the evidence of the (daily) Independent and Times, these circulation gains are no flash in the pan. While the rate of increase of sale will not, of course, be maintained (the compact Independent in the early days was selling at least 20 per cent more than the previous year's broadsheet version), the higher level of sale seems to hold. The Independent is today selling 13 per cent more than its broadsheet version did two years ago. And The Times continues to be the fastest growing as well as the highest selling quality compact, up 7.2 per cent year on year and now over 700,000.

Returning to the two new compacts on the block, both, it seems to me, have had assured launches. The Guardian's relaunch has clearly been more radical - new shape, new typefaces, new sections, in many ways a new concept. The IoS reorganised its main section and, in my personal view, produced a paper that feels as though it always should have been compact. It always helps to accompany a relaunch with a big exclusive, and David Blunkett himself said it was the IoS lead that did for him.

In both cases then, the worry in some quarters that downsizing means downmarketing has not, I think, been realised. Perhaps oddly, the one quality daily still broadsheet is the one against which that allegation might stick. The Daily Telegraph, too, has had a recent facelift (relaunch would be too strong a term), but, unlike its former broadsheet rivals, has had no circulation lift. The Telegraph remains the biggest seller in this sector of the market, but its circulation direction has been down for some years.

In its new guise, it has a tabloid sports section and a broadsheet business section. It has brought in star writers such as Jeff Randall from the BBC, and rewarded them with the largest photographs (or photo bylines, as journalists call them) ever seen in newspapers. It gives the impression that no subject is bigger than the writer, and suggests that the Telegraph version of celebrity journalism is the journalist as celebrity.

Anybody who senses that it is the Daily Mail, rather than its former broadsheet rivals, that the Telegraph has in its sights will call in evidence the transfer deal involving one John Bryant.

Bryant came to prominence years ago when he imported a South African teenage athlete called Zola Budd and tried to turn her into a British Olympian. He has been around ever since, working variously for The Times, the Mail, The European and the Sunday Correspondent. It was there I encountered him, or rather we passed in the doorway. A condition of the final, and abortive, refinancing of that paper was that the editor was changed. That was me. And while my demise was being plotted, Bryant was being lined up to succeed me.

The paper did not last much longer - we cannot blame Bryant for this; he was brought in to throw the last dice. Then he set off on his travels around the British press before returning to where Zola's story was located, the Daily Mail, four years ago as consultant editor. Now he has been appointed editor-in-chief at the Telegraph, which cannot be the best news that Martin Newland, editor of the daily, and Sarah Sands, editor of the Sunday, have had this year.

Since the Barclay brothers bought the Telegraph they have looked to the Mail for their influential appointments. Murdoch MacLennan was hired as chief executive, and has since wielded the power at Canary Wharf. He brought in an assistant to the then editorial director, Kim Fletcher. Fletcher has gone; the assistant remains. And with all the unsettling (for Newland) talk about the editorship of the daily, now the need for an editor-in-chief has been identified. I doubt whether Newland or Sands spotted this gaping hole.

Bryant, who at 61 is much older than the two editors he will supervise, is not the kind of man not to engage. And given where he comes from, it seems likely he is intended to influence the Telegraph in a Mail-ish way. We shall see. It is worth noting that the serene upward path of the Mail itself has been disturbed of late. Its circulation has fallen by 2.7 per cent year on year, the Mail on Sunday by 6.0 per cent. There may be a message in that.

What he will make of the fluffy, "spa-like" relaunched Sunday Telegraph also remains to be seen. It has not had a friendly reception. Media Guardian sniffily described it as "having a long way to go".

The Telegraph has also raised its price to 65p, the same as The Independent but 5p more than The Times and Guardian. This will not help, although the Telegraph sells a high proportion of copies at a reduced rate.

Then there was that other hypothesis, that quality sells while tabloids are less popular than they were. The evidence is this: the four general quality daily titles last month sold 70,000 more copies than they did a year ago, 2.28m. The four general quality Sunday titles last month sold 31,000 more copies than a year ago, 2.75m.

This is the only sector of the market where sales are rising. The red-top tabloids are selling 220,000 fewer copies than a year ago. The mid-market titles, Mail and Express, are selling 169,000 fewer.

Have we entered the age of the intelligent newspaper, as long as it's the right size?

Peter Cole is Professor of Journalism at the University of Sheffield

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice