Child of our (The) Times

June 19, 2008

I have made no secret that The Times is my paper of choice. Were I not working for a PR agency and actually had to pay for a paper, then my pennies would go to The Times. Good home news, strong business section, the best world news section and sports pages which make the tabs look pitifully shallow – The Game being arguably the best pull-out section of them all.

However, recently, I have been thumbing through my beloved paper and find something very different. Colour coded pages, a daily universal registry page and a noticeable increase in advertising. The content is still superb and the quality of reporting is excellent, but my eye can’t help but be tracked by the funny green, yellow, mauve and so on colours at the top of the page. With a new editor in place it is natural to see so many changes occur, all you need to do is look at the weekend FT for an example of a new editor stamping their own, and forgive the pun, print on a paper.

Some will point to the Murdoch influence in these changes but the real reason, surely, is the ever competitive paper market. Not only does The Times compete with the Mail, Mirror and Express for casual readers, but the amount being digested online is also a huge factor. Recognising the threat, a few years ago, the ‘quality’ press took the bold step of downsizing in format – with a couple of noticeable exceptions – but clearly this has not been enough. The floating casual reader is still not picking up the Indy, Guardian or Times.

On a personal level, I have no problems with a paper trying to become more commercially appealing, as long as the changes don’t come at the expense of the reason why I bought the paper in the first place – the quality. Will this be the beginning of a rash of rebrandings? What new features will be introduced? How much has the new FT Weekend influenced the movers and shakers? I don’t know the latest circulation figures for the FT Weekend, but I get the feeling, having talked and listened to those close to the paper, that it has been something of a success.

So, whilst some traditionalists will be throwing their arms up and screaming the new Times is the worst thing since the death of Mudlark, I will be sitting back, getting used to the new format and hoping that any efforts made by the quality press to increase circulation figures is a huge success.

That said, I will be continuing my silent campaign for the reintroduction of Mudlark

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