I bet ‘i’ will go free

The launch of i, from The Independent stable, is refreshing in a market that has been relatively dormant.

It ticks the right boxes – it’s modern, accessible and more upmarket than Metro, it’s got an eye-catching cover, is colourful, has great signposting and an impressive news matrix. And it’s generated good feeling among media buyers, which is always important.

The question mark over the long-term success of i is the 20p cover price. On a standalone level, it is a brilliant price point but no newspaper fights on the newsstands alone these days. The freebies, including The Independent’s own Evening Standard, have given the paid-for titles a run for their money, based mainly on the fact that they’re put directly into people’s hands.

With Metro going strong, that 20p means effort as well as cash. If people aren’t in the habit of buying a paper, i is unlikely to change behaviour to any critical mass.

Online news consumption is also growing, and the introduction of smart tablets such as the iPad is set to erode print even further.
Finally, the more successful i is, the less The Independent will be – why pay £1 when you can get the best of the Indy for 20p?

My bet is Alexander Lebedev has a back-up strategy that enables it to go free if the 20p cover price stops it achieving critical mass.

I certainly hope so because while everyone else is bemoaning the decline of the quality press, these guys have been brave enough to do something positive.

Rebecca Ironside Director – Qualitative, SPA Future Thinking

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