Tuesday, December 20, 2005

About this shift to tabloid

You know all that buzz in the past year about how the tabloids are coming? Well, slow down a bit there, Hoss.

The latest casualty of this aborted "invasion" is the Chicago Sun-Times' Red Streak. Of course, as usual, things are a bit muddied. Sun-Times editor in chief John Barron says the Red Streak was just a "defensive move" all along to the Trib's RedEye that launched on the same day in October 2002.

"The Tribune was going after our demographics, and we weren't going to let them do that without a fight," Barron said. "The plot line for Red Streak from the start was to confuse the marketplace and not allow the Tribune to set up a successful paid-circulation tabloid."

When RedEye dropped its 25-cent cover price this past Oct. 3, Barron says, that was "mission accomplished." Huh? So now it's no longer important to keep RedEye from enroaching on your territory when it's FREE and you're not? I must have missed something in that economics degree I got.

Earlier, Harrisburg's The Patriot -- the tab of the broadsheet Patriot-News -- folded for lack of (advertiser) support. (Well, editor and publisher John Kirkpatrick didn't exactly say the advertiser stuff in his letter to readers, but you don't need a decoder ring ...)

Despite what's happening overseas and the predictions of Mario Garcia (Garcia's Poynter column as well as his PDF "white paper") that the world is going tab, and the continued shrinking of the broadsheet web to as small as 46 inches in some cases, the idea that this is what "many U.S. newspapers will look like by the end of the decade" seems a little breathless at the moment.

Stay tuned, however. Just as publishers are starting to get religion about online, they may turn on a dime about tabs -- if they can overcome resistance from advertisers and the inevitable drop in advertising revenue.

A few papers still are experimenting with it or talking about it -- but if you're waiting for a rush to the smaller sizes, pack a lunch. It could be awhile.


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