I seem to remember that when Andrew Jaspan was editor of The Age, he floated the idea of the newspaper downsizing from its current broadsheet size. Not surprisingly, this was met with a barrage of near hysterical complaints from readers who felt fiercely loyal to the present layout and perhaps thought that the content would diminish in quality as the size of the paper shrank. I recall that in a radio interview on Jon Faine’s 774 Morning program, Jaspan defended the idea by mentioning a number of quality papers that had a non-broadsheet format, such as The Times and Le Monde. Le Monde is in a Berliner format, which is between a tabloid and a broadsheet and the size that Jaspan suggested might be good for The Age.
I was surprised to learn that the word tabloid is connected to the word “tablet” and dates back to the 1880s when a pharmaceutical company began heavily marketing their new compressed tablets, as opposed to the powders that were usually sold for various ailments. The word tabloid began to be used to refer to the compressed nature of the stories in certain types of newspapers. In an odd coincidence, Microsoft’s early version of the iPad in 2001, was called a Tablet (no relation).
Jaspan indicated that there was an inevitability to changing the size of The Age- it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. The broadsheet size has been seen as a barrier to young people becoming readers, this, and the difficulty of reading on public transport- were both given as reasons for The Times changing to ‘compact’ format in 2004. (Compact format is slightly smaller than a tabloid.)
Well, Jaspan was removed as editor in August 2008 and so far The Age has resisted the urge to downsize- aside from the 550 Fairfax journalists who were retrenched that same August.
The Age has experienced a downturn in circulation in recent months, but according to Business Day, The Age will be committing additional funds with the aim of increasing circulation over the next year.
I wonder if the size issue is still on the agenda, given the rise in electronic consumption of news media and how long it will be before we no longer have paper newspapers.