Berliner, no more.
Thank you for being bold, Guardian Media Group, your bravery was not lost on us.
A morning scroll through the Twitter feed and, amongst the usual posts of angst, joviality, product placement and self-congratulatory re-Tweeting, one update caught my eye.
Looking back through the conversation between two respected media commentators it became clear that the writing was on the [Berlin] wall for The Guardian and The Observer. Not the downfall of the titles, heaven forbid, but more that the format of the physical newspapers was to change from Berliner to tabloid.
There’s no denying that tabloid is a more user-friendly size – a lot less wrestling and anyone sat adjacent will be less prone to an eye-level elbow at the turn of each page.
I’ve never felt that tabloid has carried with it the weight of professional journalism, real opinion and gravitas; tabloid, I’d suggest, is a size better suited to ‘reporting’ and the ‘tittle-tattle’ of the Red Tops.
The move to tabloid by broadsheet staples The Independent and The Times in the early 000’s was seen as quite a departure, but for me the far more radical move was by The Guardian to invest in the Berliner size of newspaper, not to mention the sizeable investment in the new presses and production to facilitate this.
The Berliner format (315mm x 470mm, or 12.4in × 18.5in in old money) is taller and wider than the tabloid, yet noticably narrower and shorter than broadsheet. Even today, over a decade after The Guardian introduced it, it still feels contemporary and confident, not of the same breed as the other daily titles.
Likewise The Observer – set it against the Sunday Times and the Berliner feels leaner, svelte, bang on it’s fighting weight and ready to take on it’s somewhat bloated rival.
Whereas The Times felt the need for multiple inserts within, supplement after supplement, The Guardian always seemed better contained and comfortable with itself.
It was a brave and undeniably expensive move by Guardian Media Group and I, for one, shall mourn the passing of the Berliner format; I may even buy a copy and squirrel it away for future nostalgic purposes.
I admit that my membership of The Guardian online does mean that I purchase the physical newspaper less frequently; I am also acutely aware that I am not alone on this front and this wider decline in purchasing printed news is a strong driver for GMG to out-source their production to Trinity Mirror.
But in an age when the vast majority of our news and media is consumed online, I do so strongly feel there is the need for printed words on paper – something tangible that you can hold, and feel, and engage with.
If (as I sincerely hope) newspapers are to survive in their printed format, albeit each in the same tabloid size, then more than ever the quality of the content becomes the greater differentiator.