Almost a year has passed since The Independent did the unthinkable, launching a compact edition in one of the UK’s most established markets. Whether considered brave or foolhardy, the move to compact has changed the face of the quality newspaper market forever. No longer will a reader in search of quality editorial be forced to perform dexterous origami folds to digest their daily news. The compact represents a viable alternative.
Against the backdrop of a declining market, the compact stimulated a level of turnaround unprecedented in quality newspapers. For those media owners that have adopted the format, instant and continued sales increases are being experienced. The format change certainly better suits the needs of the younger 21st-century reader.
Traditionally, the title selection was largely driven by readers’ preferred editorial style. Quality compact editions challenged this, particularly for commuters. For some, it offered new access points to quality editorial, while for others it was simply a case of increasing frequency or switching from another broadsheet. Irrespective of the growth source, the compact format has delivered a more common-sense approach to quality news reporting.
New buyers and readers are, not surprisingly, younger and more upmarket – an attractive hook to many advertisers. However, to categorise them exclusively in demographic terms is, perhaps, missing a vital point. The real discriminator for Indy readers is their willingness to change. Readers have changed their newspaper format so why not, for instance, their credit card supplier? What is increasingly apparent is that compact readers are open to change in a number of areas – obviously an attractive proposition for advertisers.
Classical market delivery is undoubtedly a key factor for advertisers, but the compact offers a number of additional gains. Most notable of these is the issue of whether a compact page differs from a broadsheet in impact terms. The Belgian Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper tested the impact of a variety of advertisements in both broadsheet and compact forms within the same newspaper. The results were identical on every count. Applying this to the UK market, the net result is a significant increase in value for advertisers, as the relative cost of a compact page is markedly lower than for a broadsheet.
The reaction to the compact has undoubtedly been positive and in many ways, has stimulated competitiveness in the segment. Yet, the broadsheet has a strong presence and is the chosen form of news delivery for many; particularly older readers.
As for the Indy changing to a compact format, there are certainly no regrets. Readers now associate the brand with “intelligent innovation”, which will further guide our development. The more immediate challenge, however, is to communicate to advertisers exactly what has changed and how this can benefit their business.