Guardian confirms tabloid switch

By Max Goldbart, Wednesday 14 June 2017

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The Guardian and Observer will switch from their mid-size Berliner format to a tabloid size, outsourcing all printing to Trinity Mirror.

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The switch will happen in early 2018

The move was confirmed by The Guardian owner Guardian Media Group (GMG) yesterday evening, after rumours had surfaced on Sunday night, and will take place in early 2018. GMG said it will now enter a consultation period with the circa-50 affected staff at its Manchester and Stratford printing sites, which will include the potential to TUPE across to Trinity Mirror.

The decision to shift its print will lead to GMG closing its printing sites, thereby abandoning its three Manroland Colorman presses, purchased in 2005 as part of an £80m investment. According to its annual report, GMG still owes Lloyds Bank £33.7m on hire purchase agreements for the presses, although in a news story on its website the Guardian said the loans have now been paid off.

GMG chief executive David Pemsel said: “This is an important step in our three-year transformation plan. More people are reading and supporting our journalism than ever before, but the print industry continues to evolve, and we must evolve with it.

“This will impact a number of our print site colleagues and we will honour our commitments to them as part of the transition process to Trinity Mirror.”

The move has been instituted as part of several cost-cutting measures to help GMG recover a £37.8m operating loss and break even by 2019. The Guardian's print circulation has more than halved over the past decade, with the most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) setting daily circulation at 154,010. Only two years ago, it established a standalone print-focused unit in a major reorganisation of its commercial operations. 

Trinity Mirror currently prints the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and numerous regional papers. Its managing director of print John Brewis said he was “delighted” to be working with GMG. 

“The team at Trinity Mirror Printing has the track record and the capability to handle a contract of this scale, and we will work in partnership with GMG to ensure a seamless transition,” he said.  

It is unclear at the moment which of Trinity’s five printing sites - Watford, Birmingham, Teesside, Cardonald (Glasgow) and Oldham – would take on the work. It has closed printing sites at Cardiff and Newcastle in the past 18 months, leading to just shy of 100 job losses.

In its annual results published earlier this year, Trinity Mirror announced a sales boost of more than £100m, which was in the main put down to Trinity’s acquisition of rival publisher Local World.

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