Irish Times launches its new format and remains a broadsheet…

Great to see the Irish Times finally make a move it has been contemplating for some time. Briefly, it’s changed the format of the print version of the paper from classic broadsheet to a compact version. So now it is almost exactly the same size as London’s Daily Telegraph:

The new size resolves a lot of problems that the staff at the Irish Times have been mulling for years. I suspect the tabloid was never seriously considered, particular after The Times of London plumped for it.

In fact they’ve considered innovative paper sizes from across the world, including the Berliner; chosen by the Guardian as a statement of intent to be innovative and different.

The Berliner is a personal favorite of mine, not least because has the kind charm of the unusual you get from like the quarto and octavo in books or magazines.

But the Guardian is also slightly ungovernable, particularly if you’re carrying other more standard sizes along with it.

The new Irish Times is much less radical, as I suspect was the intention. The size is identifably broadsheet, but is also double tabloid size. So it sits handily inside the Irish Indo for instance.

Trimming the width creates a little bit of chaos in the first edition for the subs in parts of the news pages. Though the volume of news from the US election means that pages 8-9 are well filled with good quality and link-themed news copy.

On the editorial page, the biggest change is that the iconic Irishman’s Diary slips to the bottom of the page and letters play out all along the top and out to the edge. On balance, I like it. But I’d have worries that that column may have lost its particularity for good.

The OP Ed page is a slightly different matter. It’s here probably more than anywhere else in the paper you notice just how long and thin the pages are: though when you fold the paper (which is much easier than it was), it frames both top and bottom pieces nicely.

The other thing is that the news analysis begins closer to the front of the paper, with Harry Magee’s run down of just how little room the Republic’s government has to move with December’s budget.

Of course some will say this is just shifting deck-chairs. That in five years or less no one will be printing newspapers. At the very less it is a signal that things are changing with Ireland’s most senior title and newspaper of record.

On the whole I like more than I think I thought I might. It feels less onerous, and yet they’ve kept the signal authority of the broadsheet.

To answer my own rhetorical question over on Google Plus, no one could paint this as a new dawn for the Irish Times. But it demonstrates a willingness to repackage the brand carefully and thoughtfully at must be the beginning of a long arduous journey towards sustainability in the digital age?

No doubt other, possibly tougher decisions lie ahead.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty