UK papers: Does form affect content?

Peter Cole, a professor of journalism at Sheffield University, analyzes the impact The Daily Mail is having on other UK dailies, in today’s Independent on Sunday. The ‘Mail’ is on a charge at the moment, with a circulation of 2,426,533 for February 05, making it the second best-seller in the UK. In response, both The Times and The Independent have adopted a new compact format, which has helped increase circulation over the last year (up 3.55% and 2.81% respectively). But Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, believes the new format is impacting content. He believes both newspapers are becoming more populist in the type of story they put on the front page rather than placing the most important story as the lead.

Andreas Whittam Smith, the founding editor of The Independent, chimes in: "The Indy and The Times…are thus setting aside one of the fundamental rules of serious journalism as it has been conducted in the past 150 years. This states that the weight the editor gives to a story by its position, length and headlines, precisely indicates the newspaper’s assessment of its importance to readers.

It seems we can expect a compact format of The Guardian later this year or early next, despite Rusbridger’s concerns (and losing 0.83% of its readers over the last year). One of the biggest sufferers seems to have been The Financial Times which is down 4.48% over the year to 419,386. Given the commuter readership of the FT, a compact format would seem ideal here.

I don’t often get the chance to read UK Sundays but I notice that the Business section of The Independent on Sunday, also carries two full pages of content from the European edition of BusinessWeek. Interesting approach to boost the business credentials of the paper, and for BW to repurpose its content.

Finally, for a good laugh, Piers Morgan, the disgraced former-editor of the Mirror, has an acerbic jibe at the British Press Awards on Tuesday. We can expect Paul Dacre, editor of The Daily Mail, to do well – better than Piers in any case.