Maybe I had too much coffee this morning, but I felt excited reading The Independent on the way in to work today.
It always takes a few days to get used to a new redesign, and for me The Independent feels like a newspaper which is confident and sure of its future for the first time in a while.
I spoke to Independent editor Chris Blackhurst yesterday for a piece to appear in the November edition of Press Gazette and he got quite shirty when I asked him if the new more accessible and colourful look for the paper was a move towards the mid-market.
It’s the same content, he insisted, but The Independent as the junior member of the quality newspaper market just has to shout a lot louder to get heard. It doesn’t have the promotional clout of the Telegraph or The Times – hence the big red masthead to let it stand out on the newsstand.
The launch issue of the new-look Independent was 72 pages (minus the Viewspaper) versus 96 pages the previous week – fuelling suggestions that the redesign was about cost-cutting.
Blackhurst insists this is not the case, that the redesign is purely about trying to improve the presentation of the paper and that it was just unfortunate that the first edition of the new look came on a day when advertising pagination was low. And it is worth noting that today’s Indy runs to an 88-page main paper plus 28 pages of Arts and Books.
Looking in a bit more detail at The Independent it does seem to be genuinely creating a point of difference from the other qualities. The headlines do shout louder, there is more use of colour and the news pages are interspersed with confidently-designed features which break up the run of pages and create surprises on your journey through the paper.
At 20p cheaper than The Guardian, and the same price as the Times and Telegraph, The Independent is playing on a pretty level playing field with the other qualities for the first time in a long while. It now feels like it also has a major point of difference from them. If Blackhurst can keep the quality up over the long-term I think he stands a good chance of making solid in-roads on their sales.
The one problem he has is that with 200 journalists versus around 600 at The Times and The Guardian, and more than 400 at the Telegraph – you do get more journalism for your money at those papers. As always with The Independent, editing it is an exercise in making less seem like more – something it seems to be doing pretty well so far with the new look.