Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Monochrome in Channel, continent isolated
Everybody's talking about the new Berliner format of the Guardian, so I may as well join in.
I bought my first edition yesterday in Brussels. Although the 'international edition' of the Guardian is printed on the continent rather than air-freighted from England, any reader purchasing this edition in the Eurozone must pay 2.80 euros (about £1.90), rising to a whopping 3.50 euros (£2.35) on Saturdays (in comparison, the UK cover prices are 60p and £1.20 respectively). This practice is not confined to the Guardian; equivalent editions of the other British daily newspapers are similarly priced.
At this premium price, I suspect most overseas readers examining the new format will have felt short-changed. The new size is fine but then size isn't everything.
While the UK edition is printed in full colour, the international edition has colour only on the outside of the front and back pages of the main section. Everything else is in black and white. Since the Berliner format is commonplace on the continent, there seems no reason why printing on the continent in this format should present any barrier to full colour.
As for the G2 section turning into a "full-colour, stapled, news magazine", all that the readers of the international edition got on Monday was a monochrome G2, loose-leaf and only 16 pages. One result was that, in Monday's Steve Bell If... cartoon, the punchline (a joke relying on the use of colour) fell flat in black and white. And the international version of G2 has also lost its TV and radio listings for no obvious reason.
The international edition of the Guardian has always been slimmer than the UK version but then I have never begrudged the loss of the 80-page job sections or the dreary features on social work. That is one Nordic forest that doesn't need chopping down.
However, if the Guardian is going to charge its continental readers more than three times the UK cover price for something that is printed only up the road in Lille, it can do better than this.
PS: Tuesday's international edition has the TV and radio listings restored, now in the main section. Otherwise, my criticisms stand.