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Readers vote for tabloid switch in weekly’s ‘referendum’

A weekly newspaper in Sussex is considering a switch to compact format after staging a referendum among its readers.

The Horsham-based West Sussex County Times is asking readers to vote on whether it should stick with the current broadsheet format or downsize.

So far, 90pc of the 220 readers who have responded in an online poll have voted in favour of the change, although no decision will be taken until the results of an in-paper survey have also been compiled.

In a first-person piece in this week’s paper, editor Gary Shipton said he had been prompted to pose the question following the fire which swept through the newspaper’s office earlier this year.

Explained Gary:  “A fire which tore through the Horsham offices of the West Sussex County Times in 1927, was to herald a momentous change for the newspaper.

“Horsham’s oldest and most prestigious business reported the incident on its front page – breaking with the tradition of only running advertisements on page 1. It was a decision which has set the tone and style of the paper ever since.

“For that reason, a fire which raged in exactly the same spot in our buildings last month has historic precedent on its side for us to consider another significant change to the newspaper’s format.

“Should we move the County Times from a broadsheet size to compact – otherwise known as tabloid?”

Gary said a significant number of readers had told him they would prefer a smaller page size, a finding also backed up by market research.

But he added:  “Some traditionalists – myself amongst them – are less certain, which is why I want to give every single reader the opportunity to have their say before we reach a decision.”

As well as the online poll, the paper is offering readers the chance to fill out a consultation form published in this week’s edition.

It is also handing out dummy copies of a compact edition in the town centre next week.