Monday, 23 January 2012

New look Guardian: What the readers think so far

Interesting Open Door column in the Guardian today on what reader reaction has been to the new smaller - or "streamlined" - newspaper.

Readers' editor Chris Elliott notes: "As I write more than 1,400 readers have been in touch via email and phone. There is more lament than downright anger among the bulk of those who responded. The majority of the responses are complaints, or demands for further explanation for specific changes. Most pertain to highly compartmentalised bits of the paper, rather than to the generality of change. High on the list are changes to the cryptic crossword, daily TV listings, the weather page, and the loss of a separate sport section in the Tuesday-to-Friday papers."

He notes: "The paper is smaller, but not by as much as people may think. The numbers of pages for comment and leaders, obituaries, and sport, have returned to 2005 levels, but there is still the extra reviews page, which didn't exist before then."

Elliott reveals there has been a more fundamental change to the paper rather than just reducing its size to save on production costs.

"Beyond the familiar theme of the need to save money at a time of declining newspaper advertising and sales, there is another aspect to the change. There is an unseen but important restructuring of the editorial staff to improve the workflow – to ensure stories go on to the web faster and in a more even flow. Planning has become a great deal more important."

Elliott quotes deputy editor Paul Johnson stating: "We are pre-planning more of the paper, partly by anticipating events but also laying an even greater emphasis on making our own news, our own bespoke content, be it investigations, reportage, interviews or profiles – this will be at the core of the paper we produce."

Elliott also writes: "Among those who feel the changes most keenly are the readers who have taken the paper for 40, 50 or even 60 years, who are more likely to be subscribers; they feel they are either being pushed towards reading online or subsidising the digital Guardian."

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger tells Elliott: "People are very proprietorial and people get very comfortable with the way they use the paper. People have said they understand what we are doing but are making understandable pleas for their part of things not to change.

"We are not disguising the fact that we have brought the paper down in size. But in fact the total universe of what we are doing is expanding, not shrinking. We publish much more but decisions about limited resources are difficult; there is a fine balance between the production and expense of print versus digital.

"News and comment is not going back at all: one day last week we published 125 news stories. All the evidence shows that digital is growing and newspapers are in decline. If you care about the Guardian's future then you will understand why we are investing in the future and why it's vital."

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