Tuesday, October 19, 2010...4:48 pm

Will “i” succeed where the Independent fails?

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Yesterday saw confirmation that the Independent is to launch a 20p news-digest style paper to target “lapsed readers of quality newspapers”.

But will “i” succeed in stemming the flow of readers away from newsprint? The inclusion of an iPad app format indicates that Russian owner Alexander Lebedev has his eye on the young, digital-savvy market.

But a cursory glance at the market for digest-style newspapers does reveal a market-leading heavyweight that it may be difficult to prise off its perch. The Metro does seem to have the casual news-digest market sewn up – it’s both free (crucial when it comes to instant pick-up distribution at the station/bus stop) and available in many locations where people commute (crucial when it comes to having time to read a news digest).

I, like others, had thought that Lebedev’s strategy might be to follow the Evening Standard down the free distribution route. But, apart from a brief experiment in London with a cut-down version of the paper, that didn’t happen. Instead, we have the prospect of an addition to the newspaper ranks – possibly from next Tuesday.

It’s certainly nice to see a proprietor investing money into a newspaper. The one downside will be that the new digest might cannibalise sales of the Independent itself (though Independent editor Simon Kelner swears it won’t). Let’s face it, if you’re trying to reach lapsed readers of quality newspapers, Independent readers are a prime target – the paper’s circulation fell more than 4% over the past year, according to the latest ABC figures.

Whatever happens, it’ll be nice to see a boost to quality. If “i” follows the Metro model, it’ll rely heavily on sub-editors to put the paper out. Given the results of the Independent‘s own experiment with sub-editor free news production, that can only be a good thing…

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