The move by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to rule out a tabloid version of the paper is likely to prove a test of nerve in the face of the continuing success of the compact Independent.
ABC circulation figures for January show The Independent up more than 12 per cent on the same month last year.
Sales for the six months to the end of January reveal a year-on-year rise for The Independent of 4.6 per cent, making it the only quality daily to post an increase over that period.
In contrast, The Guardian was nearly 7 per cent down compared with January 2003 and 3.8 per cent down year-on-year. Rusbridger has told his staff it does not make economic or editorial sense for The Guardian to launch a “me-too” tabloid version.
The latest ABC figures do not reflect the full impact of The Independent’s compact, which was launched on 30 September to readers inside the M25 on weekdays. Earlier this month it was made available across the UK, while the Saturday Independent went completely tabloid on 31 January. Saturday sales are said to be up by 50,000 – a rise of 28 per cent.
Circulation of The Times was up 3.8 per cent on December with sales of its tabloid version reaching 110,000.
The other big success story was in the popular daily sector, where sales of the Daily Star once again topped 900,000 last month and the paper achieved a year-on-year rise of more than 15 per cent. Its sister title, the Daily Star Sunday, was up a remarkable 20 per cent on December.
Scotland on Sunday also posted an increase and was the only quality Sunday, apart from The Business, to show a year-on-year rise.
By Jon Slattery