The compact revolution: size isn't everything

'The Independent' has dropped its broadsheet edition. How will its bigger rivals respond?

Last week a newspaper died. This is usually a very sad event - I know, I've been involved in one - happening after a long period of decline and financial trauma and ultimately futile attempts to turn the paper round. Yesterday's death, however, was a happy event, not a blessed release. The Independent closed its daily broadsheet edition after 18 years, following the remarkable success of the launch of its compact, or tabloid, version last September.

Last week a newspaper died. This is usually a very sad event - I know, I've been involved in one - happening after a long period of decline and financial trauma and ultimately futile attempts to turn the paper round. Yesterday's death, however, was a happy event, not a blessed release. The Independent closed its daily broadsheet edition after 18 years, following the remarkable success of the launch of its compact, or tabloid, version last September.

It is hard to write about a sister newspaper and persuade the audience of the detachment of one's view. Would he write, they might ask, of the dramatic decline in The Independent's sale if that were the case? Two things: I bring semi-detachment, because I contribute to this newspaper, rather than being employed by it; and yes, in this case, because it is part of the story, decline has to be mentioned, too.

The launch on 30 September last year of the compact Independent was one of the more dramatic moments in modern newspaper history. In the unique national newspaper market that we have in this country, tabloid had long been associated with the lower end of the market. The public, for no particular reason other than tradition, went along with the idea of size dictating content.

It was challenged in the middle market when the Mail and Express went tabloid. It was challenged all over the country with regional evening papers adopting the smaller format. But at the so-called quality end of the national market it was regarded as a step too far. The Guardian thought about it hard back in the 1980s when the then editor was much absorbed by the mainland European taste for compact newspapers. But while that newspaper led the way with successful tabloid sections, it never went all the way.

Meanwhile, The Independent was launched in 1986 in a blaze of publicity surrounding its name and mode of ownership. It immediately caught on with a young, affluent, southern, liberal section of the community. But the dream was not to last through the economic downturn, and bad times lay ahead in the 1990s. The unique style of spread ownership gave way to more traditional publishers moving in, including the Mirror Group. Stability only came when ownership moved to Tony O'Reilly's international publishing company. All the while, sales slipped, and there were many who predicted a black future for the two Independents, the daily and the Sunday.

While the decision to go compact was brave, innovative and exciting, it was less risky than it would have been for, say, the Telegraph, which, like The Guardian, still agonises about whether to take the smaller format direction. The Independent's sale was falling month by month in the period leading up to the compact moment.

Then everything changed. Every month since the launch (except December) sale has risen, with the latest independently audited circulation figure moving over 260,000, the highest figure since October 1997. It has increased more than 40,000 since the compact was launched, up 15 per cent year on year, with market share at its highest level for eight years. Throughout this period The Independent has been available in both broadsheet and compact formats.

There is more to newspaper success than size, and the next six months will be harder for the paper than the last. Although it remains the smallest selling quality paper - 120,000 copies behind The Guardian, its nearest rival - the 70,000 circulation swing from The Guardian to The Independent is significant. The Independent is also the fastest growing title in the sector. The Times followed The Independent in offering the paper in the two sizes, and this has had a positive, if less dramatic, effect on sale. The fair wind of success has brought a series of awards to The Independent and priceless publicity. Simon Kelner, the editor, said last week that readers soon got used to a change of format, and then success was down to content. That, one always hopes, should be the true test of a newspaper. RIP broadsheet Indy.

They are both Mirror men, even if one has been away from the paper for 10 years, while the other has been out for just two days. Alastair Campbell was political editor of that paper before he joined the New Labour project. Piers Morgan was editor of the Mirror until the hoax Iraq "torture" pictures brought about his downfall. While Morgan tried to defend his paper and himself from the allegations that the pictures he had published were fakes, Campbell pursued his critique of the media in front of a Commons select committee. Both have huge egos.

Campbell has gone a stage further by taking his ego on tour, assuming there are people out there who will buy tickets and fill theatres to listen to one man talking about himself. There are. Doubtless Morgan will consider doing the same, although he is more of a TV performer, with his Tabloid Tales of Jordan and Posh and the celebrity set.

Campbell became a celebrity through his far from understated approach to the job of Downing Street press secretary. He loved being at the centre of power, being not just around government but a key player within government, a man with more access to the Prime Minister than most of the Cabinet. He overcame any affection he felt for the journalistic colleagues he left behind in the lobby when he joined New Labour.

He became the personification of the arrogance of a government which thought it could play with words and avoid responsibility. He did not invent spin, but he ran an operation that took news management to new levels of sophistication. He grew feelings of superiority over the media.

And last week he was back, giving evidence to the committee of MPs examining government communications. As a reporter he would go to press conferences, attack the then Conservative government, and attack government secrecy. As an ex-Downing Street communications director he told the MPs that journalists ask idiotic questions, write drivel and tell lies, that political journalists aren't interested in politics. He saidhe was in favour of freedom of information. And he said that spin came not from politicians and their press officers but from journalists.

Does he really believe that? I am bound to think that he does, because he does not lie and we have Lord Hutton's word for that. No doubt his mood on Friday night was similar to his mood after the publication of the Hutton report. No doubt he punched the air. He told the select committee that Morgan's position would be untenable if the Mirror "torture" pictures were fakes. Morgan told the world he knew he was right. He was wrong. Campbell has always known he was right. He was right.

Morgan had to go, and neither he nor Andrew Gilligan have helped the reputation of journalists. And yet the public does not believe that the only case against the politicians is built on lies. The public finds it hard to see the politicians as whiter than white. And the public does not believe that all the tragic complexities of the post-war Iraq situation are the product of a media conspiracy. In the short term, Morgan had to go. At least we were spared a long speech by Campbell, such as he gave after the Hutton verdicts.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

DIARY

Driving ambition

XFM's Christian O'Connell is clearly not required listening in Rod Stewart's household, if the performance given by the rock legend's girlfriend Penny Lancaster at the Sony Radio Academy Awards last week was anything to go by. Bumbling her way through the shortlist for the best breakfast show prize she announced O'Connell, right, who was named DJ of the year, as "Christian O'Neill". O'Connell was not too downhearted, and claimed that rival station Heart 106.2 had tried to poach him in the gents. "Jono [Coleman] offered me drivetime," he said. Coleman, the winner of the best radio entertainment award with co-host Harriet Scott, handed out business cards which modestly proclaimed he was a "comedy genius".

Dumb and dumber

Stung by the scathing reviews of her novel Bergdorf Blondes, Vogue writer Plum Sykes has returned to New York with few kind words to say about British journalists. Her attitude will be encouraged by her boyfriend, Toby Rowland, son of the late Tiny. When he stepped out with the Evening Standard's Syrie Johnson he would barely open his mouth in front of her fellow scribes. "He was terrified that anything he said would be taken down and used against him," says one. "Not that he had anything very interesting to say."

Moore lives up to his name

A great brouhaha at The Daily Telegraph over the return of former editor Charles Moore, below. Not only did his column last week take up nearly a whole page, but Moore has demanded a grand office in the inner sanctum. Fobbed off with a boxroom next to the fashion department, word is that "Lord Snooty" feels he deserves better, and that the paper's new owner should find him a bigger office, as a priority.

A beautiful friendship

Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, has received $100,000 from Universal Studios, makers of the Oscar-winning 2002 movie A Beautiful Mind, because Carter apparently suggested that Sylvia Nasar's book of the same name might make a great film. The film's producers, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, have been named byVanity Fair "moguls in the bullpen", "atop the Hollywood pantheon". And Grazer gave Carter a mention at the Oscars. Beautiful, indeed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?