The Paywall and ‘i’

The Independent, currently ailing in the same price group as the Times and the Guardian but languishing far below in terms of quality, will be marketing a new spin-off publication from next Tuesday, according to Lebedev. Aimed at “readers or lapsed readers of quality newspapers”, the appallingly named i will cost just 20p and “will combine intelligence with brevity, and depth with speed of reading, providing essential daily briefing.”

The newspaper is apparently reader-led, in that the time-poor commuter audience do not have the time or the inclination to wade through a proper broadsheet every morning. At twenty pence, the i will be the most affordable publication on the newsstand. But its awful title is not the only doubt over its birth. Will the low price tag have any effect on editorial quality? How will the i fare in competition with the web, where free, easy-to-access news is brief and succinct enough to absorb in seconds?

The Paywall has been built around the News of the World, leaving only the Sun outside the perimeter. News International will charge £1.99 a month for the News of the World online, and an iPhone app is in development. With The Times already behind the fortifications, the i has the upper hand. At 2op – £1 a week – it represents better value than News International’s £2 per week Times and Sunday Times package. And it folds and might have a crossword. But with so much news available on the internet for free – the i will be news-in-brief rather than comment – it will have to be much better than The Independent to succeed.

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