As the i newspaper slices into its first birthday cake today, its doubters may well be eating humble pie as they look back on its overwhelmingly successful year in one of the toughest ever periods for print media.
The 20p i was launched last October by the marketing, sales and editorial teams at the Independent to meet the demand of time-poor consumers who wanted to read a quality daily at a fraction of the size and cost.
Andrew Mullins, managing director of i, gave Marketing Week a food-based analogy for the reasoning behind the launch last year: “Quality newspapers have been in decline for quite a while, and it’s coming down to a core bunch of readers who read a very large paper every day. It’s like a three-course meal: how often do you want to eat a three-course meal? That’s fine if you’re at home seven days a week, but commuters on the move prefer to snack. And i is a snacking news product.”
And that bite-size product is a “healthy alternative” to the tabloid flavour crisps the paper’s audience were (and for some, perhaps still are) pigging out on. And according to the i’s latest ABC figure, more than 184,000 people are now indulging in – arguably – more wholesome newspaper diets, while still paying mere pennies for the product.
The combined circulations of the Independent and the i overtook the Guardian in February, with the publisher now offering a joint circulation of more than 350,000, compared to the Guardian’s 232,566, according to September ABC figures.
I’s climbing circulation and the fact that it now apparently turns a profit – although the Independent does not reveal figures – led to a 30p Saturday edition, which was launched in May.
The i also does not seem to have dramatically cannabalised sales of the Independent. Although the older title’s circulation is slipping, Mullins says more people are reading paid-for Independent content than ever before.
Consumer interest around the i has been matched by advertisers, who can place ads across both Independent papers – and also the Evening Standard – to ensure maximum reach to an upmarket audience. Media buyers have been “universally positive” in their feedback on the new paper, according to Mullins.
In the year ahead, a new TV ad campaign featuring celebrities – much like its first ads starring Dom Joly and Jemima Khan – is planned as the newspaper looks to continue its circulation uplift and boost advertising revenue.
Mullins told Marketing Week earlier this year that in launching a new paper, the Independent’s marketing budget needs to work “four to five times” harder than usual, which is why ad campaigns have been “selective” to date.
In the year ahead, the i will continue to build momentum slowly as its publisher looks for new relevant audiences and innovative ad deals, but now it has the added bonus of a year’s worth of data to consult when approaching new territories.
The i has proved even in its infancy that there is still space for new entrants in the crowded daily newspaper market. Perhaps other media owners could use the model as inspiration to fill a News of the World shaped gap on Sunday.
Read last October’s Marketing Week cover feature on the launch of the i
Read Mark Ritson on why he thought the i was destined to fail