The Guardian going tabloid as print woes continue

The world-famous newspaper is aiming to stem heavy losses...

The Guardian going tabloid as print woes continue

Picture by: Britta Gürke/DPA/PA Images

The Guardian newspaper is scaling down physically in size, as it plans to put its three Berliner presses out to pasture and shift to a tabloid format.

Its current Berliner, European-style print incarnation is taller than a tabloid and narrower than a broadsheet. 

Adopted 12 years ago, in that time circulation has more than halved – down from 376,000 in 2005 to just 154,000 copies in April.

Parent company Guardian News and Media is now set to outsource its printing to rival Trinity Mirror, making it possible for it to either close or sell the Berliner presses which cost £50 million in 2005 and are increasingly lying idle.

The group, which also owns the Observer, had spent a further £30m on printworks in London and Manchester.

While closing the presses could save millions of pounds annually, the fact it still owed Lloyds Bank some £33.7m on hire-purchase agreements last year could result in a big one-off charge for doing so.

According to the Telegraph, a source close to negotiations said:

"This deal makes great sense to the Guardian financially. It keeps the journalism available in print, which many readers really value, and it will offer much more flexibility for the future."

The Guardian had previously resisted a move to tabloid, with its often lower-quality and right-wing connotations, saying in 2005 that the shift from broadsheet to Berliner represented "the best of both worlds" by offering readers "broadsheet values" with more convenience.

It specifically said it had opted to "avoid the 'easy' short-term tabloid route."

While large swathes of Guardian readers have migrated online in 2017, the title's finances show there's still life in – and a reliance on – a print option.

Print advertising and newsstand sales represented 60% of total revenues of £209.5m for the year to April 2016. 

It had fallen by just a single percentage point on the prior year as the dominance of Google and Facebook stymied digital growth.

The Guardian is in the midst of a three-year restructuring programme to ensure the long-term future of the newspaper.

It reduced its operating losses from £57m for 2015/16 to £38m for 2016/17 and boosted cash funds to over £1bn by selling its shares in the Ascential media group.

However, February brought a warning to staff to expect further heavy losses this financial year with the group expected to burn up to £90m of its remaining cash resources during the period. Some 250 jobs had already been shed in 2016.

The group's chief executive David Pemsel told the Financial Times last month that the company "will be sustainable" by April 2019.