Broadsheet blues: Rise of the compact newspaper

The Courier The last edition of the broadsheet Courier will be published this week

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The disappearance of the traditional broadsheet newspaper has come a step closer with the news a second major daily paper is to cut the size of the paper it is printed on.

From this Saturday, the Dundee paper The Courier - which sells 60,000 copies a day around Tayside and Fife - will appear in a compact format.

Last week its sister paper the Press and Journal completed its gradual switch to this format.

The Scotsman, The Times and the Independent made the change years ago, while some local papers - including the Falkirk Herald and the Dunfermline Press - have also moved to printing on smaller pages.

Evidence suggests readers prefer the format but, for the major national papers at least, the switch has done little to counter their long-term fall in sales.

In January 2004 the broadsheet Scotsman sold more than 70,000 copies a day - last month the compact version sold less than 39,000.

The Times and the Independent have also seen their sales continue to slip.

While The Herald in Glasgow has no plans to turn compact, Scotland on Sunday recently took a move in that direction. A revamp of the paper left the main news section as the only broadsheet element.

One question is whether more local papers may become compact as the format becomes established.

Siren voices

Some titles, such as The Oban Times, traditionally preferred to print on broadsheet paper and continue to do so. Some argue the format gave these papers added gravitas and meant that some readers associated the values of the local paper with the values of the serious national press.

However, it is only in recent years that the broadsheet press became synonymous with what some call the quality press. The Daily and Sunday Express, the Daily Mail and even the News of the World were broadsheets within living memory.

Until just 20 years ago, The Courier printed classified adverts instead of news on its front page.

Some in the newspaper industry claim to be fed up hearing from siren voices, claiming that it will not be long before newspapers themselves disappear and the internet becomes the main way of delivering written journalism.

They may or may not be right. But if current trends continue, the day when a broadsheet newspaper seems as anachronistic as one with classified ads on the cover may not be far off.

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