In other news, people will not pay for content

By skepticlawyer

From the BBC:

These are tough times for newspapers. They are losing readers and advertising to the internet and desperately trying to find solutions that will save their businesses in the longterm.

Rupert Murdoch thinks the answer is to charge for his papers’ content online, putting The Times, the Sunday Times and, most recently, the News of the World behind paywalls.

The Independent, by contrast, wants to woo readers back to printed newspapers – and i is designed to do just that.

It is a re-versioning of the Independent’s existing content, aimed at a new audience – “lapsed readers of quality papers”, or those wanting “a comprehensive digest of news and comment”.

Do read the whole thing, but I have to say that the thought of people paying for anything in ‘the News of the Screws’ is simply boggling.

i is being sold alongside the Independent, which itself has been redesigned. Some experts, including Professor Roy Greenslade and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie think there is a danger that some readers may foresake the £1 Independent for the 20p digest.

The Independent’s editor in chief, Simon Kelner, does not believe so, saying the two papers look very different.

So how do they compare? And does i really combine “intelligence with brevity” and “depth with speed of reading”, as its publishers claim?

The 56-page, brightly-coloured “i” has the look and feel of Metro, the national free newspaper which claims to have got a new generation reading newspapers.

But its content is a good deal weightier, not least in the columnists borrowed from the Independent – Deborah Ross, Johann Hari and chief sports writer James Lawton, who gets a full page in i.

i is being launched in the context of the Conservative-LibDem coalition making sure that the BBC does not use its power and wealth to cannibalize local news services, especially local radio. Question for our media-heads: does anyone here think this will work?

10 Comments

  1. Jacques Chester
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    My takes here and here.

  2. Posted October 27, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    I tried to find it on the internet, but nothing under i.co.uk, and google returns nothing either.

    The name is clever I suppose, going one better than ‘iPod’ and ‘iPhone’, but my first thought when reading it was ‘God, how narcicisstic*.’ Maybe that’s a selling point though…

    *Yes, I even make spelling mistakes in my thoughts.

  3. Posted October 27, 2010 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    If i is like Metro, and if Metro is anything like free commuter newspaper MX, then I suppose it could get people reading. MX seems clever and innovative in some ways, but it’s best at finding innovative and clever ways at advertising.

    Thing about MX is it’s not only free, it’s impossible to get away from – people will leave it littered all over the train!

  4. ken n
    Posted October 27, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    This is fascinating to watch. I have no idea what or what model is going to work. You have to believe that people are going to want to read much of the stuff that is now in newspapers and that as it costs money to produce, someone will work out a way of matching supply and demand.

    Part of the problem for papers is that so much content comes from agencies – Reuter, AFP and such. Papers these days do very little reporting. We can find it all that somewhere on the web so little need to buy a paper.
    So papers and magazines are moving to distinguish themselves by the opinion stuff they run. But there they are up against the bloggers, some of whom I reckon are better than most opinion writers. I would not write Murdoch off. So far he hasn’t taken a trick but he is about the last media proprietor left and he cares about the medium. He will keep trying.

  5. Posted October 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    What’s interesting about the Russian guy who’s bought the Indy is that he revitalised the Evening Standard in London by making it free. Like the Metro, people leave it littered all over the tube, so it has tremendous reach, but it’s almost as though the papers are following the internet model, where — unless it’s the WSJ, people just won’t pay (although they will, from time to time, donate).

  6. Posted October 28, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    I’ll pick up a copy tomorrow to see if it’s any good. Stay tuned.

  7. TerjeP
    Posted October 29, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Those newspapers that are free today will be an even bigger roaring success if and when the non-free papers collapse. MX is mostly about dog bites man stories but as a business model it seems to work. It’s in your face, probably very cheap to produce and chock full of advertisements.

  8. Posted October 30, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Did you end up getting a copy SL? What did you think?

  9. Posted October 30, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I don’t buy newspapers much these days, apart from the Saturday papers – and then it’s mostly for the arts liftout section. But I do subscribe to a few magazines and still buy the odd Spectator… Maybe the Independent is trying to tap into the ‘magazine’ market – they realise it’s getting harder to get people to pay for a newspaper because the immediacy and urgency of the medium has been superseded, first by television, and now by the internet. But magazines are not really news-based, and not bound by such immediacy – they offer an elegant product, with enticements like crosswords, cartoons, favourite columnists.

    I think the general trend over the next few years will be on making printed material more elegant, focusing on the design of words, and the general layout – because this is an obvious point of difference with the internet. I love the internet, but they may never be able to format and design to the extent that book/magazine/paper/printed word editors and publishers can.

    Anyway, maybe formatting is what ‘i’ is focusing on. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

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