‘We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century that is designed for people who have a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time they have available,” says Andrew Mullins, pictured, managing director of The Independent and Evening Standard. Mark Hargreaves reports on the concept of i and its consequent success
IN a world dominated increasingly by all things digital, it is fitting that PJ’s first Innovation Showcase is devoted to the UK’s newest printed national newspaper. i was launched squarely into the eye of the digital storm – a storm that is having an enormous impact on the newspaper industry. Launched on 26 October 2010 to a relatively cynical reception, i has steadily proved those cynics wrong and in January 2012 was the only national daily to increase sales year on year. i now has a net circulation of 196,176 (minus bulks), making for year on year sales growth of 56 per cent.
The concept of i was created by a team of people led by Andrew Mullins, pictured above, managing director of The Independent and Evening Standard, with the support and involvement of the Lebedev family throughout the process.
Research by the team indicated that there was a strong desire for quality information in the print newspaper format but that consumers were increasingly time poor. Also, against a backdrop of austerity, £1 to read a daily broadsheet newspaper felt increasingly wasteful, leading consumers to stop buying newspapers completely or reduce the frequency of their purchase. The Independent took the decision to create a newspaper to give these potential readers exactly what they wanted – a short, concise quality read at a surprisingly low cost of just 20p, Monday to Friday. On launch, Andrew Mullins said: “Time-poor newspaper readers, and especially commuters, have been telling us for years that they are inundated with information and just don’t have the time to read a quality newspaper on a regular basis.
“We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century that is designed for people who have a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time they have available.
”With the threat to traditional printed revenues from the internet, many newspaper publishers are now looking to solutions such as paywalls to enhance their fortunes. Innovative thinking at The Independent has seen the company wooing readers back to printed newspapers. It is only through bold strategies such as these that newspapers can succeed. Those that stand still are bound to fail.
“The aim of i was not just to produce an innovative newspaper designed to capture readers from other newspapers,” says Matt Harrison, sales and marketing director. “Our aim was to increase the newspaper market by targeting lapsed newspaper readers and new readers who wanted a quality daily but in a concise format and at the right price. We believe we’ve achieved this as, since i launched, no other newspaper has reported a significant incremental decline proving that i has thereby grown and continues to grow the market.
”Since its launch, i has helped drive the market share for Independent Print from 10 per cent in August 2012 to 22 per cent in December 2011. i has seen continuous revenue growth, meaning that Independent Print brands now take majority share of all ad volume in the quality market place. up from 22 per cent in September 2012 to 34 per cent in September 2011.
Reader reaction to i has been extremely positive and the engagement with the brand has been better than the i team could have imagined. As soon as i gets into people’s hands they love it and the newspaper has now built a strong and loyal following of advocates, especially among 25- 44-year-olds.
Apart from the quality of its content, one of the primary reasons for readers’ loyalty to i has been its strategy to be the UK’s most interactive newspaper. The newspaper responds to every mail, tweet and Facebook message and listens to reader requests. The whole area of social media is growing and currently i has a Twitter following of more than 33,000 and more than 18,000 Facebook followers. It was by listening to reader demand that iSaturday was launched to give weekday readers a full weekend briefing in a concise and easy to read format.
Last year, The 2011 Newspaper Awards gave its first ever Platinum Award to i for “an innovation which is truly outstanding in the eyes of the Newspaper Awards”. The citation described i as “a vibrant, witty, colourful and energetic read which certainly seems to have found its niche, especially with younger audiences and those who may lost the newspaper reading habit.
“In an age where doom-mongers are forecasting the demise of the printed word, it’s refreshing and exciting to see a newspaper publisher willing to stick its neck out and publish a new concept in newspapers.”
The final word goes to Stefano Hatfield, i executive editor: “It’s our firm belief that there is still an appetite for news in the printed form, but it’s got be in the right format. i has proved conclusively that the printed newspaper is far from dead. But to succeed, it’s imperative to come up with fresh, exciting, innovative ideas designed to satisfy existing readers and engage with new ones.”