Can it really be over two years since The Independent took the bold decision to switch to a tabloid format and kick-start the merry-go-round of broadsheet redesigns?
The move certainly did wonders for The Independent's profile and sales figures. It made serious inroads on rival The Guardian's position as the paper of choice for liberal-minded readers.
And The Indy is not resting on its laurels. Last year there was another top-to-bottom redesign. And then last Tuesday came the launch of Extra, a 24-page daily supplement described by executive editor (features) Adam Leigh as 'big-picture journalism, consisting of top-notch writing and visuals'.
Relaunches have been good for both papers' circulation figures. The reformatted Guardian now has 379,835 readers, an increase of 3.49 per cent on March 2005, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations, having fallen back from an initial post-relaunch surge. Prior to The Independent going tabloid, sales hung at the 220,000 mark, but the paper's latest ABC figure is 255,849. Yet that is down one per cent on a year ago and suggests that the changes may be wearing off.
So is Extra The Indy's attempt to grab disaffected readers of G2, which has come in for heavy criticism since changing to the diminutive half-Berliner format? 'G2 has lost vitality,' claims Leigh. 'There are the sparks of good ideas but often they are poorly executed and the size doesn't help.'
If Extra is gunning for G2 readers then it is taking a very different approach. While G2 is committed to reacting to the news with its main features, The Independent is taking a more esoteric approach. The launch feature was an extract from a book about Truman Capote; the next day Tracy Emin put together a 'virtual art collection'; the next saw Robert Fisk dissecting the US/Israeli relationship.
'It is very encouraging that The Independent will be running more substantive writing,' says Katie Bond, publicity director at publisher Bloomsbury. 'This is a brave experiment and it will be really
interesting to see if it works.'
Others are not convinced. Katharine Viner took over at G2 two months ago having previously been editor of The Guardian's Weekend magazine. She describes Extra as little more than 'repackaging' and claims it lacks the colour and liveliness of G2.
The value of coverage in The Independent or The Guardian should not be underestimated, points out Robert Philips, co-founder of Jackie Cooper PR.
'These newspapers are a key part of the influencer network. Decision makers and other people who work in the media read them. We find that coverage in The Guardian or The Independent results in media leads elsewhere.'
Executive editor (features), Independent Adam Leigh
Tel 020 7005 2857
When are your deadlines?
The same as for the rest of the newspaper, which goes to press at 8.30-9pm.
How are you different from G2?
Extra is not a traditional newspaper features section like G2. The main paper is where you will find features driven by the news on a particular day. Instead, it consists of material planned in advance but it is put together on the day so we can make changes quite late if we need to.
The main difference now that we are a pullout section is that the cover story is one of the most important pieces of journalism in that day's newspaper. The aim of Extra is to do something different with a daily newspaper. Most things in the quality press are restricted to one or two pages but this is more in-depth, with a substantial piece of writing up to a maximum of 5,000 words and running over five or six pages. You might find similar pieces in the Sundays, but no one is doing that in the dailies. We have trailed the idea since Christmas with an eight-page pullout on Fridays, and that has proved popular.
Are there any regular sections to plug into?
Product round-up 'The Ten Best' has proved to be a very simple and successful idea. It was difficult to always find room for it in the bound-in features section but now it has a regular space as the back page of Extra, so everyone can find it.
How and when do you like to be contacted?
Email or post is best in the first instance – a phone call is likely to be inconvenient. I am always looking for new ideas first thing in the morning, so the earlier I receive an email the better. Very few things are off limits with Extra, so if something or someone is of interest to our readers of course we will want to put it in.
Features editor, The Guardian Katharine Viner
Tel 020 7713 4433
What impact did The Guardian's relaunch have on G2?
People were shocked by the size of G2. But we don't hear complaints from our readers, only from rival editors and others in the media.
What is the supplement's ethos?
The aim with G2 is to be very live and 'of the day' so as a result we have a late deadline of 6.30pm. Essentially we are after good stories and I would never rule anything out. A G2 reader is the same person who reads the news pages but who wants to be informed in a different way. News and features are different aspects of the same read. G2 is a fantastic product with great writers, wit and vitality.
What makes it into G2?
There are the regular core elements such as food, health, fitness, shopping and women – and then there are general features, which look behind the news. At the front of the section there is a lot of scope for interviews with, say, authors about their books.
What do you think of PROs?
The main issue my team encounters with the PR industry is the usual fault of not knowing the product. PROs need to know the section and what we do. If material is not targeted properly then we are not
going to be interested. We do want PR-driven material as well as following the news agenda and our own agenda. I had a very good relationship with PROs when editing Weekend but I expect that to be different on G2 – some of those relationships will still be relevant, some won't. I have my own ideas about where I want to take G2 but nothing that is ready to be announced.
When should they get in touch?
It really depends on what it is they are calling about, but afternoons are very bad unless it is a really hot story.