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Culture

For Newspapers, Smaller is Better

Following the trend that's seen broadsheets in Britain and other EU countries shrink to smaller formats, one of Germany's leading dailies has launched its own compact newspaper.

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The world -- Die Welt -- just got easier to handle

They say good things come in small packages. Germany's Axel Springer Verlag is testing that theory with the launch of Welt Kompakt -- the tabloid-sized version of the daily broadsheet newspaper, Die Welt. It's the first "quality daily" in Germany to make the leap to a smaller format, but if the British experience is anything to go by, it won't be the last.

The London-based daily The Independent is so pleased with the success of its compact version launched seven months ago, that it will now only be available in the smaller format. The Times is also encouraging readers to opt for its tabloid version, and the Daily Telegraph is considering a similar move.

A European trend

The Times im neuen Format

A commuter reads a copy of The Times in tabloid format.

Spain bid farewell to the last of its broadsheets last year. In Scandinavian countries, roughly half of all newspapers on offer are solely available in tabloid format, and other countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands are also experimenting with compact newspapers.

The appeal of compact papers is obvious, especially to commuters who enjoy their morning read on crammed trains and subway cars. But the publishers of the first tabloid-sized versions had a psychological bridge to cross because of the connotations of the word "tabloid." Over the years, it has come to mean a sensational, gossipy paper with bold headlines and paparazzi pictures, whereas a broadsheet is typically a more serious, quality newspaper.

The publishers of Welt Kompakt say the new paper, which sells for 50 cents, is a tabloid in size only. And unlike the British compact papers, which are essentially mini-versions of the broadsheet edition, it will offer different content from its big sister, Die Welt.

"It's an independent paper with an independent concept," said Welt Kompakt's editor-in-chief, Jan Eric Peters. "While Die Welt is a paper that is strong on analysis and reflection with lots of background information, Welt Kompakt will offer a competent overview of the very latest news."

Welt Kompakt's reporters have pushed back their publishing deadline to midnight in order get a leg up on the competition and be more current. The paper is also designed to be extra colorful and have more photos, in an effort to attract new readers who may not regularly read a newspaper.

Tough test market

But for the first eight weeks at least, only readers in Berlin will have the chance to sample Welt Kompakt. Axel Springer originally intended to conduct the test phase in the Düsseldorf area, but made a surprise decision to switch to the hotly contested newspaper market in Berlin.

"Berlin is the market with the greatest number of newspapers in Germany, as well as a large number of non-readers, so the paper's performance in this market will be a strong statement," said Peters.

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