Five ways to improve i, The Independent’s 20p newspaper
October 29, 2010 9 Comments
This week has seen the launch of the first printed newspaper for almost 25 years, the i. Unveiled on Tuesday by The Independent, the Monday-to-Friday paper has received mixed reviews (notably on Twitter) but circulation figures have reportedly ‘surpassed our most bullish expectations’ according to Simon Kelner.
We’ve been relatively impressed by the 56-page tabloid, which markets itself as ‘The paper for today’. We also have a lot of time for Kelner and Independent Print Limited owner Alexander Lebedev for thinking outside the box.
However, it’s by no means flawless and, with that in mind, we suggest five ways the i could be improved.
1. Use less NIBs (news in briefs)
We know i is supposed to be an ‘essential daily briefing’ which ‘combines intelligence with brevity and depth with speed of reading’ (so says the extensive i eight-page pull-out advertisement in the Evening Standard on Monday) but that doesn’t mean a large percentage of articles have to be under 40 words.
i is over-nibbed, with The News Matrix on page two and three resembling a chessboard and the Business and Sport Matrix (pages 42 and 54 respectively) also somewhat bewildering. There is absolutely no problem with using a lot of NIBs. The Sun do it very well and, according to a well-respected journalist and lecturer of ours, they are in fact the most read part of the paper. But i has gone too far.
2. Let’s have the news agenda, not the entertainment agenda
i – at times this week – has tried too hard to provide the other media agenda for those ‘who prize intelligence, convenience and desirability’ (according to Kelner in Monday’s Standard). It has gone big with stories that weren’t big in other papers (notably ‘Who shot the Emperor?’ about the hunt for the trophy seeker who shot the UK’s largest stag, and the housing crisis in Britain that was only the Business lead in the Independent) .
Not only that but i have given a lot of space to what probably comes under entertainment – a lookalike of Alexander McQueen’s dress in the new Harry Potter film (p6 – Wednesday), Bert from Sesame Street possibly being gay (p10 – Tuesday), unseen pictures of Michael Jackson (p6 – Tuesday) , Charlie Sheen and some prostitute (p3 – Thursday), Carnations being back in vogue (p9 – Thursday). i is in danger of being pop news rather than hard news.
3. Get rid of the chummy ‘Letter from the editor’
‘A newspaper is like a living organism’ is the hilarious opening line of yesterday’s attempt by Simon Kelner to appear accessible and interested in the reader. Other cringeworthy attempts have included ‘we’re setting out on a journey of discovery’ and capping it all on Tuesday: ‘We know that, as with any new product, it may take you a little time to feel comfortable with i‘, which could not sound more door-to-door salesman if it tried. Come on Simon, we know you’re the editor, we know editors are elusive and care little for anyone’s opinion but their own – you can stop this act now.
4. Do things differently
If you’re going to be brave and bold and lauch the first new printed newspaper for over 25 years, at least make it fresh and new. The front page still looks like – well – a pretty standard front page and the layout on a page-by-page basis is straight out of the Independent’s style guide. Where is the infographics corner (more digestible than NIBs) or a more modular layout that gets rid of columns? More could have certainly been made of i‘s design.
5. Make it convenient
A problem with print news is not necessarily the financial implications but that they are not convenient. You have to go out of your way to a shop to buy one. The Metro has such a high circulation because it is conveniently placed in train and underground stations across the capital and the suburbs. To read i you still have to make that unwanted journey to a place that sells it. I don’t think people mind the 20p cover price but they do mind having precious time taken out of their day. Patrick Smith writes interestingly about how i may well go free to challenge the dominance of the Metro. But it’s the Metro’s convenience the i needs to challenge. Not its cost.