The last weekday of @TheAge as a broadsheet – I won’t miss it

I don’t read The Age in paper form everyday, but when I do, it’s either on the weekend where I can spread out as much as I like (so broadsheet is fine, though the smaller format of the supplements is fine too), or on weekdays on the train, where the broadsheet format is extremely awkward to handle.

Many of us will know the feeling — we’ve managed to find a nook on the train where we can unfold the paper without hitting other people with it, struggled just to turn the page without it inadvertently folding in on itself, and finally got to the new page only to find it’s a bloody double-spread of adverts for Dan Murphy’s or some other booze outlet we have no interest in reading.

It may be seen by some teary nostalgics as the end of an era, but I for one welcome the new compact tabloid format.

Wow! What a scoop for The Age!!
Yesterday’s Age — a big scoop?

Mind you, as Jonathan Green writes in this interesting article, it may just forestalls the inevitable continuing decline of paper sales.

It does sound like some kind of paywall will go up around the web site, too. It’s unclear how well that’s worked for News Limited papers such as the Herald Sun, given there are easy ways of circumventing much of it.

I also wonder what on earth Fairfax were thinking when they built The Age’s Tullamarine printing plant, now set to close within a year or two, but which only opened ten years ago at a cost of $220 million — all set up with highly expensive printing presses to print broadsheets. Did really nobody see coming the decline of classified ad revenue, and thus big fat broadsheet newspapers?

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8 thoughts on “The last weekday of @TheAge as a broadsheet – I won’t miss it

  1. I will feel a bit nostalgic next Monday. Having lived in households for almost 50 years where the Age was read (usually home delivered) it will feel funny spreading a small paper on the breakfast table (or across my legs while sitting on the dunny).
    Yes, I can’t believe The Age built a plant that only had ten years’ life in it. Terrible planning.
    I wonder if you or your readers would guess how long print edition of The Age will last? Maybe ten years? Maybe even less?

  2. I use the broadsheets for covering an area when painting.

    Oh well, i guess heaps of people will now need to buy large blank paper sheets instead.

  3. A journalist at an event I recently attended suggested that Fairfax would have to drastically alter within five years. In private latter, he said that he actually believed it would be more like one year.

    The printing plant? Just a reflection of the speed of the drastic upheaval of the media. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I don’t think I would have picked in 2003 such a complete collapse of the print media business model. And, in fact, the decision to build the new plant would have been taken say five years earlier. In 1998, would you have picked the collapse of the media?

    From memory, the driver for the new printing plant was the competition of the new presses at the new Herald Sun plant in Fisherman’s Bend. These could do full colour at will and The Age had to install the same technology to compete for advertising.

  4. It’s been amusing to see The Age euphemistically describe it’s new format as ‘compact’ in an effort to avoid the t-word at any cost. However the quality of journalism is by no means determined by the size of the page it is printed on.

    I seem to recall the paper making a lot of noise about the News Limited papers putting up a paywall, so it’s somewhat ironic that they now consider doing the same.

    The Age needs to decide who it target audience is. The Herald Sun unashamedly prioritises sport above all else, and has found a sizable market by doing so. The Australian might be a loss leader but it knows that its audience likes a lot of political and national news coverage. The Age used to have a huge audience of students and teachers, but many of these have shifted to online, especially in the younger demographics.

    I suspect the sheer symbolism of the move to a smaller format may be too much for some Age readers. I give the new format 12 months at most before The Age produces a print edition on weekends only, and that will probably only last a further year or two.

  5. So the size is going to match the quality of journalism they’ve been putting out for some time now…

    I was a paper boy in 97/98 and the new plant was known about then; the newsagent and paper deliverer were eagerly awainting it. So I imagine it was beset by construction delays, and they might reasonably have thought it would have much longer life than just the decade it got.

    Perhaps it’s a shame to some, but I won’t be sad to see the end of the era of people making their living from making sure there’s enough writing to fill a newspaper every day, and calling it “news”. — Sorry, of course, for the people, but not sorry for lacking the output. — Actually, I rather suspect the world would be a much better place if no-one could comment much on things that happen outside their day-to-day life. But I am very much a sceptic.

  6. I used to only buy the weekend versions of the Age not only because I had the time but because it was just too damn large to read on the tram.

    Recent years saw me save the supplements to read on public transport during the week and despite their ‘compact’ size, I still found the articles intelligent and interesting. I don’t think that reducing the size of the paper will do a single thing to increase weekday sales, but hopefully I’m wrong…..

  7. Will the demise of print media be in time to save a few forests from being woodchipped. It is just my opinion and I have not researched this, but I believe that a large portion of woodchips are used for newsprint. Seeing the huge amount of junk mail in my neighbours letter boxes, however, my optimism may be unfounded.

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