New paid daily newspaper in UK

Media buyers welcome the arrival of i, the ‘newspaper for the 21st century’

Today’s launch of i, the first quality national British weekday newspaper in almost 25 years, has captured the imagination of media buyers and provided a refreshing step change from charting falling sales and migrating readers.

The 20p newspaper claims to be “a new kind of paper”, in fact, being “colourful, accessible, concise and intelligent, it’s your essential daily briefing”, at least according to its own promo.

Its aim to “cut through the media cacophony to pick out the news you can’t afford to miss” might be reminiscent of a 15-year-old Dennis weekly magazine, but its core look and feel is surprisingly similar to The Independent.

In the first issue, fonts, stories and advertising pages are generously shared with its established £1 Indy sibling.

Yet an unprecedented seven pages of promotional copy for i in last night’s stablemate London Evening Standard left no doubt how seriously Independent Print Ltd is taking the launch.

Andrew Mullins, managing director of IPL, said: “We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century, designed for people with a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time that they have available.”

Getting over innate issues surrounding its lower case, single letter branding, and the fact that it ‘makes for very bad SEO’, i has been widely welcomed by the industry.

Stephen Noble, head of press trading at Mindshare, said: “My impressions of it are that it’s better than expected and the cover price of 20p should mean that people will buy it.

“It’s easy to knock new products and to be apathetic about innovations, but [the industry] should try and be more upbeat and support new products.

“On the whole I think i’s launch is great – we need something refreshing to reinvigorate the market, but whether it will bring in new readers remains to be seen.”

Dennis Perks, press manager at Total Media is equally as enthusiastic. He said: “I thought it’s absolutely brilliant – in terms of what it offers for a morning paper, it’s perfect.

“My journey into work is about 45 minutes and I read two-thirds of it. I liked the beginning news pages – the stories are not too long or too short – and the remainder gave you enough opinion and comment to keep you interested.”

Arum Nixon, client investment director at MediaVest, also welcomed i’s arrival but criticised its design for being “quite cluttered”. He said: “Key to the concept is streamlined, accessible content, and they’ve clearly tried to achieve this [signposting content sections from the front cover, colour coded sections].

“Having the summary matrix helps, but the overall feel with the heavy weight of ads lacks a bit of cohesion. That said, it seems to fill a gap in the market, and has a strong base of editorial content – so all the ingredients of success. Let’s hope so, it’s great to see innovation into the market.”

Justin Barns, press trading director at Carat, said “it’s not perfect” but welcomed the investment in print.

He added: “The opening part is good and there are some nice features.

“It’s going to take some time to settle down and get it into the right people’s hands. Sampling will be key to its success. I’ve seen a few ads promoting i but it seems to be a bit of a slow launch.

“It needs to make sure it’s more than a rehashing of the previous evening’s Standard. That said, it’s a positive thing and will benefit the consumer.”

Some serious questions remain about whether i will cannibalise the already falling sales of the Independent. The paper also needs to ensure it continues to offer significantly more than Associated’s free city-centric title Metro.

Noble noted: “Metro is quite habit-forming so it depends on the length of a commuter’s journey as to whether they buy i or not – if it’s a 15 minute journey then they’ll probably continue down that the Metro route. But if they’ve got a longer journey then something like i is quite good.”

Perks said: “What does Metro offer you? It’s just a way to a break a journey. At least i offers news and comment that you can’t get in any of the free papers.

“There will come a point soon where if they get the circulation right then it’ll be a nice offering for advertisers.”

The Independent has been the youngest and, until Alexander Lebedev came on board earlier this year, less affluent British newspaper since its launch in 1986, and as such has always been flexible in terms of creativity and providing bespoke solutions for advertisers; i is likely to continue this tradition.

Steve Williams, chief executive of OMD, captured the prevailing mood when he said: “The Independent has succeeded in producing a first issue that does what they promised.

“It’s a news, business, sport, and culture digest that has enough comment and analysis in it to differentiate itself from the free sector, yet not so much as to lure avid Independent readers to this more concise product.

“However, is there sufficient innovation here to grow the paid-for sector of the quality newspaper market? Time will tell and we’ll review sales success over time.”

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