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An i for an I(ndependent)

Posted by Max Tatton-Brown on 25th October 2010

Tomorrow sees the launch of i, a new daily paper from the makers of The Independent and the latest innovation in the notorious turbulence of the modern newspaper industry. At just 20p, i hopes to provide quality journalism at a tabloid price and convert youthful Metro readers who, as Noel Gallagher puts it, “can’t be arsed to spend hours reading every day.”

Throughout the publicity material for the new daily, they emphasise that traditional newspapers are simply unsuited to modern life, often found abandoned mid-commute with only a fraction of the content consumed.  Instead, they’re putting their money on new priorities including brevity and speed of reading to draw the crowds.

Ten new staff have been hired to manage the operation, editing down content from its bigger brother so that no story exceeds 400 words.  By giving away 100,000 copies every day for the first two weeks of the lifecycle, they hope word of mouth and a positive impact up front will compensate for a lack of TV advertising.

But if the news-consuming audience is becoming harder to attract as a whole, today’s youth are a doubly tough target. The fact remains that for most under-25s, their most frequent relationships with print media involve no money changing hands and a level of quality which barely qualifies it as something to hold overhead in a rainstorm.

By claiming that those neglecting £1 quality papers will plump for a 20p concise alternative, there’s a chance that they’re missing the bigger problem- that this market of young scurrying media consumers don’t even look at the newsstand to make the decision any more.

The iOS app scheduled for coming weeks is a reassuringly modern strategic accompaniment but exactly why you might buy it instead of the full Independent app will be a mystery to some.  It echoes the risk of cannibalisation which many have identified as a broader concern.

It’s a brave move from The Independent and interesting to see them concentrating on print while the strategy over at News International seems preoccupied with online properties.

Perhaps with at least a generation to go before the print extinction, they’re right to keep their eyes on the ball for now rather than abandon a sinking ship.

One thing is clear- if they don’t succeed, they’ll die trying…

Check out some preview pages here to see what you think.

Max Tatton-Brown