Media: Double Standards - 'Format changes have stemmed sales decline'

When is a tabloid not a tabloid? When it's a quality daily newspaper. Size matters less than how you describe it, two marketing chiefs argue.

MARC SANDS - MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE GUARDIAN

- Will newspaper circulations continue to decline, and, if so, what could be done to reverse this trend?

In the short term, no. In the medium term, they will stabilise and, in the long term, they will decline, although the internet and other methods of distribution will have more than filled the gap in terms of editorial reach and commercial sustainability.

- How has the introduction of the tabloid/compact size helped and why?

We have not gone tabloid. We have gone for genuine innovation (the Berliner). History will remember our change in terms of maintaining a broadsheet sensibility in a convenient format, as opposed to the others who sold their journalistic integrity for short-term commercial gain.

- Is the expense incurred worth it?

Of course it is.

- Has a smaller format, with less room for content, led to dumbing down?

For us, absolutely not and that is exactly why we chose this format. It allows us to maintain our journalistic integrity. The Times has definitely dumbed down - it is busy chasing Daily Mail readers and, as we all know, that requires a certain type of journalism. The Independent is a "viewspaper" not a newspaper, which has changed the journalism, though not necessarily dumbed it down.

- Do you think the full-colour aspect of the new Guardian will pull in significant numbers of new readers?

Yes. It is a little like the comparison between analogue and digital: once you have got the latter, you would never go back. You don't see too many black-and-white magazines these days.

- Are you learning to use the internet to increase sales or is it still cannibalising your paper? Would you ever charge readers to go on to your site?

The only newspapers that will survive and flourish are those whose content is available beyond the paper version. I would rather our own readers remained within the Guardian brand than go elsewhere, which is one reason we have invested in Guardian Unlimited. Many readers look at both The Guardian and Guardian Unlimited; they complement rather than substitute each other. We already charge for elements of the site.

- How do big stories affect sales? Can your paper add anything for readers who will have got most of the raw information from the web?

Sales of the paper go up significantly, proportionately more than any other national newspaper. People turn to The Guardian in droves whenever a truly big story breaks because they know that we are the only truly independent newspaper in the UK. Unlike other papers, we do not have a proprietor influencing the editorial line, so they will get the unspun facts. The paper is read very differently to the web - one is an instant hit, the other an in-depth read. They complement each other rather than necessarily competing.

- What's the most frustrating thing about your job?

Today's frustration: missing Arsenal's Champions League game against Thun because we are having a party to celebrate our launch. Not sure what tomorrow's frustration will be, but I sleep confident in the knowledge that something will crop up.

- What's your greatest extravagance?

Ensuring I have the new-style Arsenal shirt every year and having too many guitar lessons.

DAVID GREENE - CIRCULATION AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, THE INDEPENDENT

- Will newspaper circulations continue to decline, and, if so, what could be done to reverse this trend?

In the quality market, weekend sales are still very strong. The decline in the weekday market has been stemmed by format changes, which have brought younger people into the market. As long as we continue to innovate and give the readers what they want, there will be a strong market.

- How has the introduction of the tabloid/compact size helped and why?

Our sales are up by 40,000 since we introduced the compact format. Our readers like the convenience and the durability of the paper. The introduction of the compact format by The Independent in September 2003 has also had far-reaching consequences in the quality market. Both The Times and The Guardian have made substantial investments in the format of their newspapers and there is no longer a significant price differential.

- Is the expense incurred worth it?

There are 40,000 reasons to believe that it is. The initial expense of producing two formats of the paper and the associated promotional costs have been the best investment we have ever made.

- Has a smaller format, with less room for content, led to dumbing down?

No, not at all. The total space for content is greater - we have more features, more analysis and more comment than before. If anything, the new readers are more upmarket - the ABC1 profile has increased.

- Do you think the full-colour aspect of the new Guardian will pull in significant numbers of new readers?

It's not just the colour aspect. It's the format, the content, the design and the significant amount of promotional expenditure. I think it will do well by growing the market rather than by cannibalising our sales.

- Are you learning to use the internet to increase sales or is it still cannibalising your paper? Would you ever charge readers to go on to your site?

There is no evidence to suggest that our website has cannibalised our sales. We frequently use it in tandem with the newspaper and it's working successfully. We have been charging for premium content for more than two years.

- How do big stories affect sales? Can your paper add anything for readers who will have got most of the raw information from the web?

Big news stories have always increased sales of The Independent. Since we converted to a compact format sales uplifts from major news stories have increased. People turn to newspapers for intelligent news coverage, great photography and the views behind the news. They also like the portability and ease of reading.

- What's the most frustrating thing about your job?

Any kind of indecision.

- What's your greatest extravagance?

Records for my jukebox.

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1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).