Finally. For years I’ve wanted broadsheet content in a tabloid format. Several papers have dipped their toes in the water by doing tabloid format second sections, but The Independent has gone the whole hog and launched a tabloid sized edition of the paper, with all the content of the traditional format. It’s still selling the broadsheet version, too, and you can only get the tabloid version within the M25, but it’s a start. The broadsheet format is deeply inconvenient to read at anything but a desk. The art of commuter origami, where one folds one’s paper again and again to make it readable on a crowded train is much in evidence every morning. Why has it taken so long for an upmarket paper to venture into the tabloid format? Snobbery.
For readers not familiar with the UK newspaper market, it has four tiers. The bottom feeders are tabloids like the *Star *and the Sport, which are essentially pictures of semi-naked women with the occasional new story hidden under a breast. The next step up are the mass marker tabloids – The Sun and The Mirror – which are low-brow and sensationalist. Then, there’s the middle-market, middle-aged and middle-brow papers, the Daily Mail and the Express. These are the papers of the affluent and comfortable middle class. Then, finally, you have the broadsheets or “qualities”: *The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian *and The Independent.
Many broadsheet readers are snobby about the tabloid format, simply because it’s associated with more downmarket content. That’s one of the reasons that the other papers have held off doing it. However, The Indy, as the lowest-selling of the quality dailies, doesn’t have much to lose and plenty to gain. The fact that it’s restricting distribution to the Greater London area initially suggest that the publisher knows the most enthusiasm audience well – the beleaguered London commuter. How long, I wonder, before other broadsheets follow the Indy‘s lead?