Japanese broadsheet on UK tabloid mission

Asahi Shimbun : in tabloid talks

The world’s second biggest newspaper is looking into following the example of The Independent and The Times by launching a tabloid-size version.

Two senior editors from Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, were in London this week to draw up a report on the effects of tabloidisation on the British newspaper market.

Asahi Shimbun sells eight million copies in its morning edition and four million in the afternoon and is second in worldwide sales only to the Yomiuri Shimbun , also based in Japan.

Deputy editor Keisuke Abe said: “In Japan, like the UK, sales of newspapers are declining gradually, so we are looking into what’s happening in Britain, because the British newspaper market is one of the most competitive.”

Abe said the Asahi Shimbun was unlikely to consider turning its main morning edition into a tabloid.

But he said it was a possibility for the evening edition or for the supplements.

The Shimbun team spent 10 days interviewing UK media executives and studying the newspaper market.

Abe said there was surprise in Japan at the suddenness of the decision by The Times to go compact.

He said: “I was surprised to see a very traditional newspaper like The Times , which has such a long history, change size so quickly.”

Abe was particularly taken with The Guardian . He said: “I was impressed with the way it uses pictures and makes stories visually interesting. I felt the British media are observing each other quite closely and competition is fierce.”

The Japanese are the most voracious newspaper readers in the world, according to the World Association of Newspapers.

Some 664 newspapers per day are printed per thousand of population and 75 per cent of Japanese say they read a newspaper every day. Some 90 per cent of newspapers in Japan are delivered to the door.

The Independent has enjoyed a sales boom since first offering a tabloid version on September 30, 2003 and finally going fully tabloid in August.

Its ABC for October was 266,038 compared with 218,567 for the last month before the tabloid version was launched.

The Times launched a tabloid version inside the M25 in November last year and went fully tabloid a year later. Its current sales are 656,462 compared with a pre-tabloid total of 631,109.

By Dominic Ponsford

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