Aye aye, it’s “i”

The drawback to the UK’s newest daily newspaper came to me as I was queueing up in the newsagent, 20p in hand. It was in front of me, buying six cans of Stella, baccy, and Rizlas. At 10:30am, this chap clearly had a good day lined up. But I was getting impatient. And I wasn’t even on my way to work.

Actually, I really like i, the cut-down version of the Independent that hit the streets this morning. Now it and the Evening Standard are under common ownership, this is actually the direction I expected the Standard to take when it went free – crisply laid-out with short, yet authoritative news stories but retaining some of the better columnists. i reminds me of a bulkier version of the international Metros (no relation to our one) or the European 20 Minutes than the fluff-filled UK Metro.

Not that there’s too much wrong with Metro – except when it occasionally lapses into lazy Daily Mail-think – but it’s basically a rehash of what ran on the Press Association wire the previous day with added kittens. But for readers who want a bit more, there’s nothing between that and the “quality” press, which now groans with opinion, waffle, lifestyle and bullshit from every corner.

I gave up buying newspapers because I didn’t want to continue subsidising Polly Filler and her pals lecturing me about their Jimmy Choos and school runs. It’s no coincidence that The Economist, which features a blend of anonymous commentary and dry humour, is seeing sales rise while newspapers remain in freefall. Peter Watts has some thoughts on this at The Great Wen. Indeed, today’s Guardian had a plug for a Doonesbury feature above its masthead – which seemed to be more of an attempt to recapture lapsed Guardian readers than attract anyone new.

Does i fill the gap? It makes a good stab at it, and it feels like something new rather than a cut-down Indepdendent; a proper paper with much of the crap taken out. But we’re now surrounded by free news everywhere – assaulted by it during the not-missed days of the London freesheet wars – I can’t help thinking that 20p is a barrier to success. Granted, that 20p means i gets seen in newsagents across the country, an important thing to note when London’s only evening paper has rarely been seen outside of the centre of the capital since going free.

But it’s not the cost in pennies that’s the deterrent, but the cost in time – if you use North Greenwich Tube, while queue at the world’s worst WH Smiths when you could pick up a Metro for nothing and not miss your train? My regular paper-buying habit weakened when my local newsagent changed hands and was taken over by a man who had to run everything through the till, instead of conducting paper sales with a pile of 10ps on the counter.

That said, I can’t help thinking the end game for i might be that it eventually goes free – driving a further nail into the coffin of the daily printed newspaper. It’ll be an interesting few months ahead – especially for the Independent’s competitors.

(Snipe’s Darren Atwater has a page-by-page review.)


  1. “it feels like something new rather than a cut-down Indepdendent; a proper paper with much of the crap taken out”

    It feels exactly like a cut-down Independent to me. Typical “we don’t have a proper story” Indy front page, bad columnists cribbed from the Indy (a whole page of Johan Hari, what joy), no idea what pages 2-3 are for, ‘Is Bert Gay?’. Feels like much of the crap has been left in, the edition generally seems flimsier than the London Paper and even the London Lite.

    When people rail against lifestyle columnists in the Graun and so forth I often feel like they’re attacking the wrong enemy, the real problem being the dumbing down and running down of the actual news sections. Not sure there’s going to be much for me in i.

  2. FWIW I think the Economist’s rising sales are more to do with a global financial crisis and a sudden rise in interest in economics among people on the street, rather than “ooh, anonymous commentary, there’ll be no Tanya Gold here!”

  3. The Economist’s figures have been rising for years, well before casino banking got completely out of hand.

  4. I don’t see why they don’t sell it like the ES when it was a paysheet with sellers outside tube and rail stations. I assumed that was the way it was going to be marketed when I first heard about it and so I was rather surprised to see it in the newsagents of a small Surrey village.

    I pay £1 for The Times everyday and sometimes £1.50 for the International Herald Tribune if there’s a longer journey ahead so I doubt I’m the target audience for “i” (if that’s how you’re supposed to write it?). I can’t say I was hugely impressed, I don’t like The Independent as it stands and for all it’s pretty colours and design I thought the most interesting parts of the paper were the gimmicks like the 5 clue crossword and the genre-based TV listings (which I actually liked).

    I felt like I wasn’t getting enough from any of the news stories, I wanted more than just a brief outline on Iran’s bankrolling of Pakistan and I thought the thing about Bert being gay was totally ridiculous, it’s not only common knowledge but the “proof” they cite is some tweet using the word “mo”, what a piece of crap. And to run it as a leader too. Oh christ. As soon as you get past the centrefold and into the lifestyle and arts section it was like a carbon-copy of the stuff in the rear of the Standard I never read.

    Give it a few weeks and it’ll settle down into a more normal paper. Just like when The Guardian had it’s redesign you’ll find all the gimmicky and interesting stuff will fall out (I remember the page 2 column in the new Guardian devoted to an article by a blogger) and it’ll become The Metro.

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