As a cadet on The Courier-Mail in the mid
1970s, I was given the job of writing a story on a change of type face used for
the paper’s masthead.
It was a subtle change – one that most
readers probably wouldn’t have noticed if they weren’t told about it – but it
was nevertheless taken very seriously by management. I recall an editor being
dispatched to seek the blessing of some typographical guru in a London attic.
There is a genuine care and veneration of
such things among those with some printers’ ink in their veins. You can pick up
a faint shadow of that interest in the online world by starting a conversation
about which font you chose as your Word default (I’m an Arial man myself –
strong, clear and more concise than Verdana.)
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
So no-one should think the old Curious
Snail’s decision to go tabloid after 159 years was taken lightly, however
obvious and inevitable it has been. And let’s not leave out “necessary.”
While News Corp’s alleged “independent expert”
Grant Samuel was pulling out all stops to justify the high price the Murdoch
family was getting for its stake in Queensland Newspapers as part of Rupert’s
dash to Delaware, a less rosy tale is told in today’s Australian, never mind the
gratuitous slap at Fairfax.
While The Courier-Mail’s circulation has proved more resilient
than Fairfax’s Herald or The Age in Melbourne, it has struggled to pick up new readers, despite southeast Queensland’s strong population growth.
The Courier-Mail’s Monday to Friday
circulation has slipped from just more than 220,000 in 1998 to about 211,000 in
the six months to September.
The Curious remains a fabulously profitable
property thanks to its monopoly and the strength of the Queensland
economy, but it is suffering the same threats as every other paper. If anyone bothered to work out the
circulation-per-head-of-population decline, it would be doing worse than the
That profitability will come under further
threats. Maybe that was one of the reasons the Murdoch family was happy to swap
out of its Queensland Newspapers stake into the broader News Corporation media