|Fairfax Media insists the editorial tone or style of journalism of its flagship newspapers will remain when they switch from broadsheet to compact-sized formats in March.
The publisher expects the redesign to result in a short-term lift in sales of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the launch period but concedes that it will not ‘‘completely turn around our fortunes on the circulation front''.
Amid unprecedented change sweeping the media industry, the publisher has released details of the switch of the Monday-to-Friday editions of the Herald and The Age from broadsheet-sized newspapers to so-called ‘‘compacts'' on March 4.
The Saturday editions of the two metropolitan newspapers will remain unchanged.
However, Fairfax plans to switch them to compact formats within the next year when it closes its two biggest printing facilities at Chullora in Sydney and Tullamarine in Melbourne, and shifts the publishing of the newspapers to regional sites.
As part of the latest changes, the newspapers will have two new sections. Pulse - encompassing health, science and personal wellbeing - will appear in The Age on Mondays and the Herald on Thursdays. The Shortlist will replace the Metro section and appear on Fridays, including an in-depth planner of weekend events.
One of the biggest changes will be the shift of the sports section to the back of the Herald. The size of the body type of stories will also be increased by 10 per cent to make them more readable.
Many parts of the two papers have been printed as a compact for several years but the switch of the news, world, opinion and arts pages of the Herald to the new format ends 181 years of it as a broadsheet.
Garry Linnell, the editorial director of Fairfax Metro Media, said surveys had shown that readers' chief concern was that the redesign of the newspapers did not change their editorial tone.
‘‘The size might be changing physically but the journalism that we pursue and practise is not going to change one bit,'' he said. ‘‘The tone remains the same.''
High-profile titles in the UK including The Times, The Independent and The Guardian have changed from broadsheets to either compact or so-called ‘‘Berliner'' formats in recent years.
‘‘The key lessons from over in the UK is that readers don't want you to change the tone or style of journalism. One of the reasons we haven't used the ‘T-word' - tabloid - is that people associate tabloid not just with a shape or size but the tone,'' Mr Linnell said.
‘‘They see it as one of those red-top UK tabloids. We don't want to go anywhere near there.''
Fairfax Metro Media's commercial director, Ed Harrison, said the format change was expected to result in a short-term boost to newspaper sales but ‘‘we are not calling a long-term turnaround in circulation fortunes''.
‘‘We all acknowledge there is a longer-term trend. In the short term, having a more convenient format will give us a lift [in circulation],'' he said.
Fairfax will also introduce a soft paywall - or metered model - for the two newspapers' websites within the next few months.
The new model will first be rolled out to international readers within the next month as the company trials the introduction of digital subscriptions.