The features pages of the broadsheets were once where the day’s
news items were analysed. In the last ten years, however, their role has
expanded greatly. Features sections are now more ’magaziney’ in feel,
with a separate identity and an agenda that goes beyond the news of the
This trend was underlined this week with the Times’ introduction of its
own stand-alone tabloid features and arts section. Following the
successful pioneering of the format by the Guardian’s G2 section, the
move leaves the Daily Telegraph as the only broadsheet to have features
within the main body of the paper, and as the only one not to have, at
some point, run a tabloid section - the Independent has already tried
the idea and reverted to a broadsheet format.
The fact that other media, such as satellite TV and the internet can
deliver instant news has meant that newspapers have needed to add
At the same time an increasing demand for advertising has increased page
volumes, with publishers using magazine-style features and special
sections aimed at niche advertisers to fill the capacity.
Marc Bedwell, director of press at media agency Media-vest, says: ’There
is a trend towards increasing the overall value through vehicles such as
lifestyle sections. What we are seeing with the Times is part of that.
It is a brave attempt and I think it should work.’
Features sections have also become increasingly important in defining
the character of the newspaper. But given that they are all reacting to
the same core news agenda how can differentiation be achieved?
Format has helped, both in making the various newspapers’ features
sections look different, and in dictating, to some extent, the editorial
The Guardian’s G2 tabloid, for example, allows a pacier approach, with
subjects being given more weight by the fact that they occupy a whole
spread. Hence, a tendency towards detailed, factual pieces.
The Daily Telegraph’s feature pages must contrast with the foreign news
pages they follow, and therefore tend to be softer, with more space
given to well-chosen interviews . The Independent, with its broadsheet
features section, is in a position to use the space to inject a certain
amount of elegance to its treatment of material and chooses subjects
In making its change, the Times hopes to retain individuality by
combining its liking for traditional narrative features - the ’find a
good story and tell it well’ approach - with the stand-out nature and
convenience of a tabloid format.
Position: Features editor
Capacity: Around five features pages within the newspaper
’Our basic aim is to have consistently well-written features - we do not
have as many as our rivals but I hope the focus and the presentation is
’Now the Times has a separate section it means we have the only features
section within a main newspaper which we think is a virtue. Our readers
say they really appreciate the single section for ease of
If you have a separate section you risk being discarded - you need to
have a very arresting cover.
’For us, features is the heart of the paper rather than an add-on. The
things we do can best be described as human interest.’
Position: Assistant editor (features)
Capacity: 32-page, tabloid features and arts section
’Going tabloid is a big change for the Times and allows us to do
something that the editor has wanted to do for eight years. That is to
have the features and arts pages in one section with news, business,
foreign, sport and everything else in the main section.
’It allows us to carry significantly more feature pages. We think we
have a more diverse mix than other papers - narrative features,
investigative features, interviews and light style pieces. I want to do
more narrative pieces.
’Although people have less time to read the papers people will invest
time in reading something if it is of a high enough quality.’
Position: Features editor
Capacity: Separate, 24-page, tabloid G2 section
’It is certainly flattering that the Times has followed our G2 format,
but what is interesting is that they do not seem to have changed the
content at all - it is an attempt to catch up with us and to address the
fact that their features were buried with the business and other
To some extent we are all reacting to the same news agenda and fighting
for the same interviews but we think we do things other papers would not
- like our recent G2 on race.
’We also hope we are more reactive than the other papers, we often see a
big story coming halfway through the day and turn it around in a few
hours and put it on the cover.’
Position: Features editor
Capacity: 18-page, broadsheet section
’I am fairly neutral on the question of format - I admire both G2 and
the Telegraph - but I think it is more a question of having imagination
over content and design. We are trying to be as fast off the mark as we
can with subjects and as imaginative as possible.
’We think of ourselves as quirkier and we try to take a sideways view at
a subject. Aside from pieces that are related to news events, we have
regular pages such as fashion, media, health and law. In the old way of
thinking maybe some of these would be for particular audiences - like
maybe fashion for women - but I think boundaries are a lot more blurred