The Beatles? Nope. ABBA? Neither. The Three Mosqueteers and D’Artagnan? Er… no. The four British “serious” newspapers: Guardian, Times, Independent and Telegraph.
I love British newspapers. I really do. You see in them a rare effort of independence towards institutions and political parties that is unthinkable in, say, South Europe. The press in the UK is vibrant and is a genuine democratic counter-balance in the face of the State apparatus, Government, the rich and the influential.
The current tendency in the eyebrow paper field is downsizing. The alleged reasons are practical ones (difficult to use for commuters) and symbolic (linked to an old-fashioned past).
First was the Independent who, with a big fanfare, changed to tabloid size. Then, more quietly, the Times followed. Both stopped the freefall in circulation and also made a bit of profit. The last move was made by the Guardian choosing a halfway size between the broadsheet and the tabloid: the so-called Berliner format. The Berliner is a quite “continental” shape, similar to those papers in France and Germany. The fourth broadsheet, the Telegraph, is going to launch a shake-up next week: they are going to keep the current size but will change the sections distribution, focusing in news, sports – in a tabloid supplement, curiously – and finances “told in a sporty way” according to editor Martin Newland.
So what’s the future for those serious papers market? It seems that the size changing was necessary in order to stop the bleeding and to attract few new readers but ultimately is the Internet, with its free electronic version papers, which is shaping the market.
Will the Internet make disappear the papers as the apocalyptic version says? I doubt it very much. Remember that the creation of the photo camera wasn’t the end of painting as many thought. On the contrary, it pushed for the genesis of abstract painting, a key artistic movement to understand the 20th century.