More life in the old weasel: The Independent is to launch a Saturday edition of its daily spin-off newspaper i next month. Cover price just 30p. That’s less a weekend paper for less than a packet of Rizlas – regular size.
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I am an admirer of the i newspaper, the compact version of the Independent, not least because it is proving to be something of a “gateway” paper for some of the students of journalism at Leeds Met. It’s a lovely little package, full of good news, some interesting features and a passable sports section.
What I don’t like is the new television advert for the paper which features comedian Dom Joly boasting that the paper has “none of that celebrity nonsense”. What tosh. Not only does the advert feature Joly and Jemima Khan (two celebs) the paper features a regular page, Caught & Social, featuring nothing but, er, celebrity nonsense. Today’s page (left) features Sylvester Stallone, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson and Rod Stewart. A page of nonsense that Hello! would be proud to print.
The Creative Review takes apart i – the mini-Indy launched yesterday – and finds it already deep into freesheet territory.
… does i really offer a quick-fix version of The Independent? There are opinion pieces for sure, but with news pages that segue a story on whether Bert from Sesame Street is actually gay with a smaller piece on the re-examination of the Nazi foreign ministry, it’s much nearer Metro territory than it thinks.
The analysis is useful, but not as detailed as that offered by Jim Waterson, an Oxford student, who blogs at World of Pop. Waterson compares the i with its big sister, the Independent proper:
“So far, so Metro. But if the words have weight behind them then I’m interested. By the time I get to the newsagents to buy a copy I’ll probably have scanned the BBC News headlines on my BlackBerry and know what’s going on. If I pay, I want content that I can’t get for free on my phone. If it contains more than agency copy then I’ll be tempted to buy it for a journey: anything to escape the cute animal pics and dreary writing found in the freesheets.”
The first copies of i, the Independent’s bold attempt to reinvigorate the newspaper market, hadn’t made it to Huddersfield this morning, although I did manage to pick up a copy in Leeds station. My first impression is that you can tell it’s aimed at younger people. The splash is a report on the squeeze on first time buyers might hook in young professionals, a bit boring, but certainly in the target range. True, it could have made the Independent proper (which led on a much more worthy story about the Christian diaspora from the Middle East) but it is the “ears” of the front page – the cells at the top of the page – where you get the first real sign that this is a “youth paper” in your hands. You can’t tell by looking at the publicity shot (on the right), but my copy presents the question Is Bert Gay? A reference to the sexuality of a character in Sesame Street. If this is what will get the youth reading newspapers again, then goodness knows what will help us.
The best thing you can say that it offers fantastic value for money. For 20p it is an absolute bargain. It costs less than a postage stamp. If it’s ever given away for free, as is sister title the London Evening Standard, it will take over the commuter market. The balance of stories, moreover, is about right: the correct amount of news and views; the business section afforded a generous five pages (surprisingly one more than the arts) and only sport feels a bit light, for a youthpaper.
It’s a shame that it isn’t bolder. Johann Hari may be young, but he already feels like he’s been around for ever, while the gossip pages plug Kasabian, Florence Welsh and Peter Mandelson. If i was a cutting edge, you’d struggle to slice bread with it. When the Independent first launched in the late eighties, it redefined the mold of national newpapers. It was actually the newspaper that made me want to get into journalism. This paper looks far too like its older sister, who sadly shed her boldness years ago. Which is a pity. The new paper could and should try to forge its own identity. Portugal (thanks @sofiadmateus) already has a newspaper called i (see right), it’s a shame that the UK version isn’t half as interesting in its presentation.