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Media buyers welcome first Fairfax ‘compact’ edition

Today's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald

Today’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald

Media buyers have welcomed the first edition of Fairfax Media’s “compact” version describing it as cleaner and more contemporary version of the newspaper.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age this morning published their first editions in the new format, sponsored by launch partner BMW.

The new format sees the sports section move to the back of the paper and an increase in the font size by 10 per cent. The Age.com.au and SMH.com.au homepages were also relaunched over the weekend with a new design.

“It’s a positive move for them in that it makes their format more contemporary, when that word isn’t often used for newspapers,” said Nick Keenan, head of trading at media agency Mediacom’s Melbourne operation.

“It’s definitely a more commuter friendly paper, and while this was debated inside Fairfax for more than a decade, but it looks great and while I don’t think it will grow the print audience what it might do is keep the current audience buying the paper. ”

Dan Johns, CEO of Ikon Communications, said the much anticipated transition had come to together well. “I think it’s come together well and looks good,” he said.

“I think this is a positive move and will help alleviate some of the pressures on circulation.”

Chris Mort CEO of TMS said: “I like it. I don’t know if that is just because of the build up to it, but it’s clean, it’s easy to follow and I think it will go down very well.”

Fairfax said it was pleased with the launch of the tabloid, or what the company is calling a “compact”, format on the grounds that the “tone” of the broadsheet remains.

“We’ve invested significantly in asking our audience what they would like to see from Fairfax and they have overwhelmingly told us they are ready for a more user friendly, convenient, weekday Monday to Friday print format,” said Fairfax Metro Media CEO, Jack Matthews.

Today’s newspapers have a number of tactical advertisements placed throughout the newspaper from BMW, Commbank and also Challenger.

The advertisement from Commbank in today's newspaper.

The advertisement from Commbank in today’s newspaper.

M&C Saatchi’s Regional Creative Director Tom McFarlane said the Commbank ad was them capitalising on the opportunity.

“It’s such an historic moment. The paper is 180 years old and this was just too good an opportunity to miss,” said McFarlane.

“Frankly we were surprised more advertisers didn’t do it to create a point of difference. ”

One of the biggest issues between Fairfax and media buyers over the change of format has been the publisher’s attempts to maintain the same ratecard despite the move from broadsheet to tabloid format.

Media buyers have said because they pay by the column inch, the rate for full age ads should come down. Fairfax has insisted the official ratecard has stayed the same.

“No ratecard has been agreed. I think market demand will dictate what clients pay – they can have official market ratecard but we negotiate on a client by client, case by case basis,” said Keenan.

Fairfax says that while the size of the page may be smaller, its research showed a 22 per cent higher reader engagement with advertising and a 50 per cent increase in visual attention.

TMS’s Chris Mort said: “I think from an advertiser’s point of view it is easier to engage with the ads…  and I think they hit you easier that then when they were in broadsheet.”

News Limited has also responded to its competitor’s change of format deploying “paper boys” at train stations this morning and also increasing the number of pages in the today’s edition of the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun.

Nic Christensen

(Declaration of interest: Both Fairfax Media and News Limited are occasional advertisers with Mumbrella)

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