First impressions

The i hit the news stands for the first time today, admid a flurry of speculation and the disgruntled rustling of style guides. Nobody is really sure how to print or even say the name of The Independent‘s new slimmer, cheaper alter-ego. A number of newsagent staff expressed their bewilderment at the name, contents, and target demographic of the i, and most seemed doubtful as to its longevity.

Inside the i, there’s nothing particularly interesting at all. The first page presents someting called the “news matrix”, which is fifteen news-in-brief paragraphs interspersed with useless statistics and a gratuitous photograph of Jeremy Clarkson, who has nothing to do with anything in the paper. There’s a very dumbed down introduction from the editor-in-chief Simon Kelner, but readers don’t encounter him until scanning over the “TV chef hate chart”, which (badly) outlines which famous chefs dislike each other. “See if you can make sense of our chef-on-chef hate-ogram” no full stop.

Only after absorbing this essential information does the reader learn more about the i‘s mission statement:

“…Brought to you by the award winning team at The Independent, it’s not only a news paper, but a new kind of paper, designed for people with busy, modern lives. Colourful and accessible, concise and intelligent, it’s your essential daily briefing. Packed with news, views, entertaintment, business and sport, but presented for rapid consumption, it’s the perfect way for an intelligent person to start the day – and at a much more affordable price than a cappucino.”

Once Simon has finished massaging the reader’s ego, he turns to page four which is an enormous Specsavers advert. Page five is mostly a photograph of estate agents’ signs on a street, but underneath is an actually alright article about mortgage lending, with a little graph and some analysis. Page six is a previously unseen photograph of Michael Jackson and a nib about a Ghanaian man becoming mayor of a small town in Slovenia. Page seven is an advert.

Four pages of slightly interesting news articles follow, written in simple language and outgunned at every corner by obtrusive adverts. There’s a piece speculating that Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie are homosexual lovers. Spongebob Squarepants, Peppermint Patty, Bugs Bunny and Smithers are also alleged to be gay.

The crowning moment in most readers’ decision not to buy the i again is Johann Hari’s vacuous comment on page thirteen. “I wept when Obama was elected. So why do I feel so let down now?” he whinges. The article is padded out with pedestrian opinion and finishes: “It’s long past time to put away your Obama T-shirt – that and take out your protest banner.” Hari apparently has expressed his displeasure in writing for a newspaper costing just 20p.

After two pages of celebrity guff we return to more comment in the form of Deborah Ross’ ‘If you ask me…’ column. She waffles harder than Hari, about tight shoes and a programme she likes on Channel 5.

Apart from a double page spread on how to think like a child (most of which is a photograph of a rubber duck) there’s absolutely nothing further to report until the crossword. The puzzles are entertaining, but they’re certainly not worth 20p by themselves, and nothing else in the paper is convincing, intelligent, or exclusive enough to merit actually paying for it.

The i, in essence, is not very good. There’s not very much news in it, there are too many adverts, and the comment is poor. Rather than being a slimmed down broadsheet (The Independent was always pretty bare anyway) it is a freesheet that you have to pay for. There’s no real place for it: Commuters read the Metro because it’s everywhere and has news in it, people with workable attention spans will buy the Times, Telegraph, or Guardian, and the tabloids cater for the hard-of-thinking. The i is much more like the Metro or the late thelondonpaper, in that it is mostly adverts. Unfortunately for the i, the Metro has more actual writing in it.

The i brings nothing new to our weekday mornings. It isn’t a “fasttrack to the zeitgeist”, as claimed on the Indy‘s website. It is a waffle-laced advert vehicle without the intelligence of a proper newspaper or even the basic information of a freesheet. I haven’t found a reason to buy this ‘newspaper’ yet. The i might only cost twenty pence, but that’s twenty pence too much.

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