Today marks the launch of i, the Independent’s attempt to attract younger eyes to something they may have heard of as a ‘newspaper’. Editor-in-chief Simon Kelner calls it “a new kind of paper, designed for people with busy, modern lives”.
In its first incarnation however, i doesn’t seem entirely convinced as to what it is. Kelner calls it “concise” and yet it already seems padded out with celebrity tittle-tattle; it’s “intelligent”, yet there’s half a page dedicated to the sexual ambiguity of cartoon characters; that it’s “convenient” is called into question when you have to queue to buy it, as opposed to the competing freesheets that can be found on any commute journey.
But the newcomer is certainly aimed at a different audience: students and twentysomethings. The front-page headline is bad news about first time buyers being squeezed out of the market; The Independent focuses on persecuted Christians fleeing the Middle East.
i’s ‘news matrix’ shows a lot of promise as an effective way of delivering the top stories in an easy to digest manner, although that too needs ironing out: turn to page three and you’re asked to “see if you can make sense” of i’s “chef-on-chef hate-ogram”. It’s hardly an encouraging attitude from i staff.
It feels like i is trying to be all things to all students. It fails to grasp essential “news” like the Metro does, and though it is excellently [and expensively] laid out the pages are busier than its rivals, making for harder work for sleep-weary eyes.
The launch of i is a promising thing. The Independent has seen a gap in the market, and while it hasn’t quite nailed how to attract it (I’m not convinced that the intelligent spectrum of the younger generation will be quite ensnared by Noel Gallacher’s claim that it’s a paper for “clever people who can’t be arsed to spend hours reading every day”, although Barnaby disagrees), it’s positive thinking from a national newspaper that is facing unsettling times.
The price of 20p could be a stumbling block – while i could be successful without damaging the main paper’s circulation, it still has the very successful (and free) Metro and Evening Standard to compete with.
What i could determine is whether consumers any longer feel the need to spend a slight amount for the promise of better news. i may find its biggest struggle in fighting its younger audiences perception that news should cost nothing. If it can’t change that perception, then it’s not just a problem facing Alexander Lebedev.