Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Does Size Matter? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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We live in a world where products are especially conceived to maximize their appeal to consumers, after being the subject of meticulous studies, such as this very newspaper whose ink, type face, design, size, paper, and advertisement is especially designed to attract the reader.

Recent downsizing by British broadsheets has caused much confusion for those working in journalism. Until now, size was inextricably linked to the respect a newspaper conjured in people; broadsheets were held in high esteem while tabloids were looked down upon. Individuals belonged to one of two groups: the elite who prefered reading the larger –sized newspapers, and the rest of the public who chose the tabloids. Advertisers also ascribed to this distinction and showcased most of their products in broadsheets. The distinction went beyond content as many began to say, “Tell me what you read and I will tell you who you are.”

Decades later, as the Independent and The Times, two well-respected British newspapers, announced the beginning of the end, as they opted to downsize and adopt the tabloid format in a revolutionary move.

Asharq Al Awsat successfully covered these changes and informed Arab publishers and journalists of their implications thereby encouraging them to rebel against traditions in the journalistic profession.

On Monday morning, the Guardian appeared at newsstands around the United Kingdom in a new size, “the Berliner”, slightly bigger than a tabloid. According to news reports, this radical change was a response to commuters’ demands who have long expressed their dissatisfaction with large newspapers, as they are difficult to read on trains, buses, and underground tubes.

Train carriages and buses have remained the same size for over 100 years. What made the Guardian finally respond to its readers’ wishes on Monday?

In truth, newspapers preferred the broadsheet format as it appealed to educated affluent readers, sitting in the comfort of their homes or in their offices. Of course, publications also need adequate space in order to present detailed information and news. More importantly, advertising agencies that finance these newspapers needed the space to showcase its products, not to mention the high cost of paper.

Regardless of size, in recent years, due to new technologies, the print media has undergone a series of transformations affecting both shape and content.

I cannot agree with those who believe broadsheets have changed in response to readers’ complaints. In truth, newspapers have become more realistic and innovative as a result of fierce competition.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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