Tabloid rumours denied, but change afoot

Don't stop the presses just yet. While The National Post categorically denies ongoing rumors about any wholscale conversion to tabloid format, there are some changes afoot.

Jennifer Bronsema, manager of retail advertising at the paper, says the Toronto section of the Post's Saturday edition will launch as a tabloid January 29. The section will combine movies and entertainment with the TV Times for a seven-day keeper expected to be a minimum of 64 pages. In addition, the Saturday Post, a national broadsheet section of the Saturday paper, will revert back to its previous name, the Weekend Post.

Don’t stop the presses just yet. While The National Post categorically denies ongoing rumors about any wholescale conversion to tabloid format, there are some changes afoot.

Jennifer Bronsema, manager of retail advertising at the paper, says the Toronto section of the Post‘s Saturday edition will launch as a tabloid January 29. The section will combine movies and entertainment with the TV Times for a seven-day keeper expected to be a minimum of 64 pages. In addition, the Saturday Post, a national broadsheet section of the Saturday paper, will revert back to its previous name, the Weekend Post.

Rumours and speculation about Canada’s national broadsheets have been percolating around media management companies for quite some time, prompted by the huge success of the tabloid or compact format in the U.K., and talk about the Post itself had gone as far as to say the paper was working on tabloid mockups.

All of the chatter began last November as the 218-year-old Times of London caught the attention of publishers around the world when it stopped offering both broadsheet and tabloid formats and went totally tab, or rather, compact sized. (Compact being a more genteel description than tabloid, which conjures up thoughts of headlines about alien babies and Elvis sightings.)

As with Canada’s commuter papers and tabloids such as The Sun, the new Times format has been popular with younger consumers and commuters who find it easier to read on the go.

Ed Weiss, VP associate media director at Echo Advertising in Toronto, says the tab speculation surrounding the Post made sense to many because the paper’s origins were The Financial Post, which was a tab format.

‘It’s also a way of setting itself apart from the Globe, something it desperately needs to do. It would give [the Post] a point of difference, and maybe even some commuters [as new readers] as well. They’ve denied it of course but that is something you always do before you go and make a change.’

Chuck Kirkham, VP of advertising sales for the Post, says it’s simply not true.

‘I would say every newspaper in the country has probably discussed the success of the British compacts,’ says Kirkham. ‘There’s not been a newsroom, sales department, or publisher that hasn’t talked amongst themselves – ‘boy, that’s an interesting trend.’ You throw onto that the success of the (commuter papers) and it is certainly something people are discussing.’

CanWest Global CEO Leonard Asper also stated earlier this week that the company, owner of The National Post, will be looking to enter into the free tabloid commuter paper market via a partnership with an existing paper or a new entry.

Meanwhile, the Globe already has two tabloid-style sections: the Saturday book section and ’7,’ a weekly guide to entertainment and the arts launched last fall and published on Fridays in the Greater Toronto Area.

Phillip Crawley, publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail, says he has no further plans to change the paper’s format. ‘We have absolutely no plans to go tabloid. We think it is an appropriate format for some sections of the paper. I felt if you’re introducing a new section, often a new format is a good way of having people sit up and take notice. If you stick to the same format and tell people the content is different, it is sometimes a harder battle.’

The real stumbling block for national newspapers is the cost and logistics of making the change. They are printed and distributed in a number of cities across the country, not all of which would have the capabilities to adapt to a different page size.

Factor in the recently announced change to The Toronto Star’s Sunday edition, and you have fodder for a new skirmish in the newspaper wars.

For more information on the changes to The Toronto Star’s Sunday edition check out our story from December 16, 2004 at: http://www.mediaincanada.com/articles/mic/20041216/#star