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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Oops! Honey, They Shrunk My Newspaper

The Times Downsizes

To Our Readers
Starting today, The Times is reducing the width of its pages by an inch and a half, to the national newspaper 12-inch standard....

Slight modifications in design preserve the look and texture of The Times, with all existing features and sections and somewhat fewer words per page.

--Page 1 Box, Monday, 6 August 2007

By Richard Carreno
Special to Junto

I hardly noticed. When I did, I liked it.

To reduce newsprint costs, newspapers have been looking for ways to save, and the size reformatting has been one of the most obvious examples. (Advertising in once such 'holy' real estate as Page 1 is another, of course).

Years ago, The Times also dropped the period in its Page 1 logo. That, too, was attributed to economy, savings in ink. Let's see? How much ink in each period, multiplied by 1 million. Oh, never mind.

Unlike quality broadsheets in the UK (The Times, The Guardian, etc.) which decided to save by configuring to a tab format, American broadsheets -- The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, amongst them -- have by and large elected to reduce width.

Both formats are reader-friendly for no other reason that the paper is easier to grasp and read. Remember all that folding, especially when riding a public conveyance?

My preference? Reduced width.

Many American editors are afraid of the tab format since, in their minds, it screams yellow journalism. Not serious enough. Of course, that's humbug. Most American broadsheets have been less than serious for years. Just how old is Britney Spears anyway?

Tabs have their place. Is The New York Review of Books, a tab, serious enough for you?

I just prefer broadsheet layouts. More conservative. More traditional. Just my bias. No big deal.

Format change signals an even more important consideration -- beyond the immediate blessing of cost savings. At least at The Times, reformatting also means a renewed commitment by the paper to its Internet presence.

One of those 'slight' modifications was the reduction of the letters section by one third. Letters that would have have been otherwise printed in that missing space are now on-line.

This isn't an 'inter-active' innovation. It's rather a move by The Times to integrate its print and on-line products into a unified, symbiotic whole. The Times's on-line version is no longer an add-on. It's now a full-fledged component of the daily paper. An indication is offered by a new letter policy that makes print and on-line letters both 'part of The Times's permanent record.'

For now, The Times's print version is the senior partner in the merger. We'll see how long that lasts.