Why did London Times go tabloid?

According to this article, all the major London papers are switching from broadsheet to smaller formats.

Why are they doing this? What’s the advantage? Why do readers prefer tabloids?

Isn’t it obvious?
They are easier to handle - reading a broadsheet on the train(for example) necessitates a good deal of elbowing and space-hogging.

Exactly. I mean, really, I do love the broadsheets–I love the extra space and the freedom it affords designers. Broadsheets just look a lot sexier and classier to me than tabloids.

However, whenever I take public transportation anywhere, I almost always reach for the Sun Times rather than the Tribune. I prefer the latter paper, but I just can’t be bothered to arse about with trying not to knock people in the head every time I turn a page, or doing that strange maneuver in which you straighten out the paper by holding the top between your chin and chest while tugging at the bottom with your free hand.

Broadsheets are just too much trouble in crowded spaces.

They have been available in both broadsheet and tabloid for some time. I imagine that the sales of the broadsheet versions have fallen to the point where it is not deemed worth bothering anymore.

Realistically, how can there be a large enough percentage of the population who reads their papers only on public transportation for this to make a difference? And are readers of the Times really likely to be straphangers?

I have to believe there are more fundamental reasons.

Legion, thanks for a nice example of begging the question, in the original sense of the phrase. :smiley:

The Times is not the best selling “quality” daily newspaper in the UK. It currently sells about 650,000 a month.

The Daily Telegraph tops the list with 900,000 sales a month. It has never been available as a tabloid and, as far as I know, there are no plans to change this in the foreseeable future.

Well, Exapno, I’m not sure what other reasons you’re looking for. The trend these days is towards tabloids, and such papers appeal to commuters and the younger crowd.

When the Independent launched a tabloid edition, its sales jumped more than 7 per cent, a significant amount in the newspaper business.

You can read this story from February of this year for some relevent info.

I, for one and I know I’m among many, only read newspapers while traveling. Whether it be in a bus, train, or plane, I almost always reach for the tabloid (with the exception of the New York Times).

Public transport is only one example. Many people find the smaller format tabloid more convenient to handle in other settings as well. Even sitting in an armchair at home, it’s a pain in the ass to unfold and read a large broadsheet newspaper, as opposed to leafing through a tabloid.

Years ago, I used to get the Denver Rocky Mountain News, which was a tabloid format - really unusual for a mainstream big city daily at that time. I thought it was a wonderful idea. Trying to have separable sections gets a little wierd, but there are ways to handle it. I remember a letter to the editor by some guy dumping on Denver in general, and listing the numerous reasons he was leaving - “I do like the way the newspaper folds.” was the only positive comment in a long diatribe (he probably put it in to increase the chances his letter would get printed).

Frankly you’re lucky to be able to read even a tabloid on London public transport. But I do appreciate the advantages of the smaller format.

If they ever tabloidize the Sunday Times, however, there will be rioting in the streets. A Sunday Times that doesn’t cover your entire living room with paper isn’t a real Sunday Times.

According to my Guardian today, Murdoch has been satisfied that the test of only supplying a tabloid version (or as the Times like to call it “a compact”) in certain areas -namely Scotland, Ireland and the west country -has exceeded all expectations. The management are satisfied that any regular readers lost will be more than compensated for by new readers preferring the new format. The article also says Murdoch has “always wanted to do it” and it will save him money.
I have my doubts whether it’s as cut and dried as all that, but this is not the place to express them.

The paper is not the London Times. It is The Times.

It has no city name in it.

But I used to buy it when it was called the Daily Universal Register!

I’d be surprised if there’s no connection with News International abandoning the Wapping presses.

Ever tried reading a Guardian on the tube? I switched to the Independent Compact.

I guess it was the same for the Times readers.

True - but G2 is tabloid, and easily suffices for a tube journey.

The Telegraph’s longterm plans have been somewhat in limbo over the last year due to the open issue of who was going to own it following Conrad Black’s difficulties. While it’s probably true that nobody has yet planned a move to a tabloid, this doesn’t mean that that won’t necessarily quickly change.
For the Telegraph is now the only one of the former Fleet Street broadsheets that has not openly committed to changing to a smaller shape. Aside from the Times, the Guardian is moving to a smaller format in response to the Independent’s success. The difference is that their decision is for a size in-between the traditional broadsheet and tabloid and that they won’t change for another year or two.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Independent, Times and Guardian were all split into two sections for years. There’s been the main broadsheet news section and then a tabloid half with fluffier features folded into the middle. Any sensible tube commuter did what I did and read the tabloid section on the train, leaving the rest to be read in the office or at home.

I noticed seosamh called The Times a ‘quality’ newspaper. Are there terms for making a distinction between a ‘quality’ newspaper and trashy ones? What about distinguishing between politically sensationalistic newspapers (‘if it bleeds, it covers the front page with a headline in 288-point type’) and ones that are about celebrities and entertainment stuff with a bit of news? Here, we have three ‘quality’ dailies with different political standpoints and a lower-quality sensationalistic daily. All of these are broadsheets. There are two free tabloid dailies for commuters – one is ‘quality’ in a way, one is trashy with glossy pages and ads for payday loans and cheap apartments next to fashion tips and news about celebrities.

About the OP: So many people now read news on the internet that the last real market where papers are competitive is for commuters. The answer is pretty clear if you’ve ever tried to read a broadsheet on a subway, as many people have already pointed out. Both the commuter tabloids here are far easier to read (even possible to read if you’re standing, though difficult). But neither is really all that good, so I think tabloid versions of the major dailies would go over quite well here or anywhere.

This is partly why ‘tabloid’ is such a pejorative term in Britain. The four ‘quality’ papers were until recently all broadsheets (Guardian, Independent, Times and Telegraph). The only papers that were true tabloids were the revolting sensationalist celebrity-obsessed near-libellous trash. There’s also two important mid-sized and middle-ground papers, the Daily Express and Daily Mail. Both are about as far right-wing as mainstream UK politics goes. Both have a significant readership. Both have enough clout to scare politicians into acquiescence.

So 'broadsheet = quality" has been an automatic assumption for a long time, only challenged by the Independent’s move.

(It’s worth noting that there’s various sterotypes, ‘Guardian-reader’ is somebody who has socialist leanings, probably wishes they could do field work for Oxfam, and will be buried in a cardboard coffin. ‘Telegraph reader’ drinks brandy, still uses the word ‘coloured’, and shoots grouse. ‘Daily Mail reader’ is a lower-middle-class idiot, who thinks that having a three-bedroom house in the suburbs makes them successful, and is convinved that the country is falling to pieces because of asylum seekers (but they’re “not racist”, you understand).

(It’s also worth nothing that some papers, particularly the Express and Mirror, were once-upon-a-time serious elements of the media, and somehow descended into the pits of cynical sales-chasing journalism.)

Tabloid is not a term held in high esteem in American circles either.

It either conjures up The National Enquirer and its ilk or newspapers like the NY Post, who is owned by some Australian guy…

Forget his name …
Starts with an M.

I still think that money or advertiser influence is an underlying reason, but I’ll willing to concede that tabloids and public transportation have strong ties. Emotional ones, too. Sheesh.

And I found this:

So if tabloids thrive with public transport, then it’s not surprising there are so few major tabloids in the U.S. That page lists only a half a dozen: New York Post; New York Daily News; Newsday, Long Island, NY; Chicago Sun-Times; Boston Herald; Philadelphia Daily News. And these are the only big cities where there is massive use of public transportation.

Are there any major tabloids in cities that are auto-dominated?

I don’t think the public transport issue is the whole one. I’d buy a tabloid version of any paper, as long as it has the same content. There’s no advantage whatsoever to having a broadsheet, that I can see. And as Vetch noted, the successful trials of the tabloid Times were in Scotland, Wales and the west country - regions with far lower use of public transport than London.

It’s worth remembering that until the last fifty years or so, the US has never had national media coverage the way that the UK (well, actually just England and Wales) have had, with journalism being centred in London. Obviously, prior to viable air transport, nationwide daily publishing in America simply wasn’t possible, so ‘serious’ papers may have competed with neighbours, but not with everybody. In America, it was television that achieved this national coverage.