The Guardian, Britain’s Left-Wing News Power, Goes Tabloid

LONDON — The Guardian, the British newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of national security leaks in the United States but whose aggressive international expansion has brought heavy losses, switched to a tabloid print format on Monday as part of efforts to cut costs.

The newspaper’s shift comes with the British journalism industry in a state of flux, as declining advertising revenues have forced various storied publications to make major changes, from firing hundreds of journalists to shutting down print operations entirely. The challenges mirror many of the difficulties faced by legacy publications the world over as they attempt to transition to more digitally savvy operations.

The Guardian had long been a standard-bearer in Britain for that shift. The left-wing publication focused on courting vast numbers of readers around the world, and it hired dozens of reporters in the United States and Australia in particular. It has ardently refused to set up a paywall — the preferred strategy of many of its rivals, from The Times of London to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times — opting instead to ask its readers for donations, even setting up a nonprofit arm to help fund its journalism.

For a while, that strategy appeared to bear fruit. The Guardian shared a Pulitzer Prize with The Washington Post in 2014 for coverage of documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor. That a British newspaper won a prestigious award that had largely been the domain of American publications illustrated the scale of its ambition.

The recognition that came with the scoop — as well as a string of high-profile stories in preceding years related to illegal phone hacking and the WikiLeaks trove of diplomatic cables — gave The Guardian outsize international influence, far beyond what is typically the case for a newspaper with an average weekday print run of around 146,000.

But heavy losses forced an about-face of sorts. The Guardian lost 44.7 million pounds, or around $61 million, in the year ending April 2017, following losses of £68.7 million the year before. The investment fund that had helped the paper deal with such losses was being drained at an alarming rate.

The shift to a tabloid print size is part of several moves, from cutting around 300 jobs to selling a stake in a trade publication group, to curb those losses. The Guardian’s style of journalism will not change, but the new format allows it to be printed by a wider array of presses, helping it cut costs. Other British newspapers, including The Times of London and The Independent, have moved from broadsheet to tabloid formats for similar reasons.

“Our move to tabloid format is a big step towards making The Guardian financially sustainable and ensuring we can continue to invest in agenda-setting journalism for generations to come,” Katharine Viner, editor in chief of Guardian News and Media, said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

David Pemsel, chief executive officer of Guardian Media Group, called the tabloid switch “an important milestone in our three-year transformation plan” that would save millions. “Our strategy to secure The Guardian’s future is on track,” he said, predicting that by April 2018, the company will have reduced its operating losses to £25 million from £57 million in just two years, with the goal of breaking even in 2018-19.

The Guardian began in 1821 as a newspaper based in the northern English city of Manchester, but it moved its headquarters to London in the 1960s. It carved out a role as a left-of-center voice in Britain’s hypercompetitive newspaper market. In 2011, it accelerated its expansion overseas, hiring more than 50 journalists in the United States and Australia in about a dozen bureaus.

Along the way, it abandoned its traditional broadsheet format in 2005, opting for a design known as the Berliner. The move cost £80 million, because The Guardian was the only British newspaper to print in that size and it had to construct new printing sites in London and Manchester with specially commissioned printing presses.

Now, it will move to a tabloid format and will be published on printing presses owned by Trinity Mirror, the British publishing company that owns The Daily Mirror, a traditional left-wing tabloid.

In a teaser video on Friday, the newspaper said the new design was intended to offer a “space for new voices” and “space for ideas.”