The Independent launches i today, its new daily newspaper “designed for people with busy, modern lives”. But regardless of who it’s aimed at, what is it for, exactly?
In championing i (and yes, it’s already getting the blood up squinting at all the lowercase “i”s that dot this post), editor-in-chief Simon Kelner claims the 20p title is “the first quality daily paper to be launched in Britain for 25 years” and that it is “colourful and accessible, concise and intelligent.”
It is all these things, in part, but it also desperately wants to be heavyweight within the confines of a “lite” delivery. And the results are confusing.
On first look, the pages are very busy, with ubiquitous splashes of colour making the uniformity of black and white newsprint now seem even more like a distant memory. There are also small boxes of text and tabs everywhere, that are more familiar to the design of news online.
The point being that i’s content is intended to be consumed in a small amout of time. The News Matrix (shown below, with an inexplicable picture of Jeremy Clarkson) thus provides 15 stories over a spread; each a mere 40-word paragraph.
So from this opening spread it very quickly feels like a freesheet.
And perhaps this isn’t surprising given that Alexander Lebedev, the owner of The Independent and Independent on Sunday since March, famously turned The Evening Standard into a giveaway when he acquired it last year.
But does i really offer a quick-fix version of The Independent? There are opinion pieces for sure, but with news pages that segue a story on whether Bert from Sesame Street is actually gay with a smaller piece on the re-examination of the Nazi foreign ministry, it’s much nearer Metro territory than it thinks.
The more successful sections are, unsurprisingly, the ones devoid of boisterous advertising.
A Health spread, despite some ugly pull quotes, at least gives the impression that there’s a more in-depth feature to be read, whereas the tiny reviews in the “i arts” section offer little of substance, no matter how rushed your commute might be.
The Business section seems to offer the most coherence design-wise, however, perhaps because it only features two ads over its five pages.
But in trying to create a reading experience that fits in with the pace of contemporary life, it seems that i, for now, merely adds more confusion to it.
We’ll keep an, um, eye on how the paper looks over the next few months. In the face of ever-growing news consumption online and via mobile apps, it will be interesting to see just how digestable this Independent Lite really is.