Media Analysis: Gaining a spot in the new-look Indy

The Independent has undergone a face-lift to make the compact daily more accessible to commuters and less news-heavy. Donna Werbner explores the widening audience reach of an innovative newspaper.

From its groundbreaking move from broadsheet to 'compact' size in 2003 to last week's redesign, The Independent has continued to reinvent itself.

Its latest tweak integrates the Review section into the news pages. The change, which editor Simon Kelner says places 'more emphasis' on features, is part of a drive to increase its appeal to young urban commuters and female professionals.

'The Indy is a powerful tool for any PRO looking to reach that audience,' he stresses.

Readers' digest

Kelner hopes the revamp will solve the design problems caused by the transition to compact. As a broadsheet, the paper's 12 home news pages were easy for readers to negotiate. But according to Kelner, having 24 news pages in the smaller format creates a 'tunnel effect', leaving readers wondering when they will emerge.

The new design tackles this by breaking up news with feature content at the front of the book and putting 'news digest' content on the front and back pages.

The pull-out Review section only came about, according to Kelner, to 'satisfy readers' desires for a tabloid' alongside the old broadsheet.

Now that concept is redundant, so Review has been incorporated into the main body of the paper.

Leedex account manager James Crawford believes the change increases the reach of The Independent for PROs. 'Commuters find pull-outs annoying and people often throw separate sections away. The redesign means you can't do this, so readers are more likely to read the whole paper,' he says.

With features on the same print deadline as news, the redesign also means features can be written 24 hours in advance of publication, instead of 48 hours - providing stronger news angles for long pieces and further emphasising the link between news and features in the paper.

This again means features are more likely to be read - but PROs should be aware that deadlines now approach thick and fast. 'The greatest benefit PROs can offer me is to enable me to speak to the scientists who have done the research when we need to speak to them,' says science editor Steve Connor. He adds that section-specific issues that have a wider social or political dimension are likely to have greater appeal in the new Independent.

Golley Slater account director Jenny Riches now says the news sections in The Independent are more feature-led than those of other newspapers.

'It likes to take a broader view of society and report on trends, not just daily news,' she says.

Last week, Riches successfully targeted the careers section with a feature on working for a dotcom company, on behalf of recruitment agencyHarvey Nash and Ebuyer.com.

New opportunities for coverage created by the redesign include an environment section and more space for news and sport stories. The paper has also increased its colour capacity by 50 per cent: and Kelner advises PROs that pictures are now 'crucial'.

The Independent's ABC for September 2003 - the last month before it published a compact edition in London - was 218,567. By the time it finally killed off the broadsheet format last May, it was shifting 261,575 copies, but this has since stabilised - March's ABC was 258,505 (and ad revenue dropped 14.5 per cent in the 12 months to February).

Popular shift

The bigger circulation enjoyed by the compact has increased the importance of the publication to PROs.

Midas PR senior account manager Rachel Gasiorowski recently sold in an exclusive interview with diet author David Zinczenko to the health section - and saw the book's sales increase as a result.

IncrediBull Ideas director David Davis describes The Independent as

'an upmarket Metro'. He says that as long as the paper upholds its reputation for independence, the fact that it has a new face can only be a good thing for PROs.

SECTION EDITORS

Switchboard: 020 7005 2000

Email: firstname.lastname@independent.co.uk

- Home news editor, Danny Groom

- World and European news editor, Leonard Doyle

- Motoring editor, Sean O'Grady

- Life and culture editor, Adam Leigh

- Media editor, Ian Burrell

- Property editor, Madeleine Lim

- Education editor, Richard Garner

- Books editor, Boyd Tonkin - Health editor Jeremy Laurance

- Arts editor, David Lister

- Sports editor, Matt Tench

- Food and drink editor, Caroline Stacey

- Fashion editor, Susannah Frankel

- Political editor, Andrew Grice

- Environment editor, Michael McCarthy

- Business editor, Jeremy Warner

- Science editor, Steve Connor

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