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UK Newspaper Launches New, Condensed Companion | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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LONDON, (AP) – A British newspaper launched its condensed and cheaper version on Tuesday in hopes of luring back dwindling numbers of paper readers and resuscitating poor sales.

The Independent, owned by Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev, launched the spin-off called “i” — a daily tabloid that shares the main paper’s editorial staff, but focuses on news briefs and digested opinion pieces aimed at “time-poor newspaper readers” and younger people.

The new daily will cost just 20 pence ($0.32), compared to The Independent, which costs 1 pound ($1.59).

Andrew Mullins, the new paper’s managing editor, said it will bring in readers who have shunned paid dailies.

“We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century,” he said.

Found in 1986, The Independent has the smallest circulation out of all of Britain’s 11 national daily papers, which have all suffered from decreasing sales. The Independent currently sells around 183,000 a day, down from about 250,000 in 2006.

The paper was bought for 1 pound ($1.58) in March by Lebedev, who also owns The Evening Standard. That paper received a boost in circulation when it became a free daily in 2009.

The condensed “i” has a daily sales potential of more than 200,000, Mullins said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

But analysts were skeptical that the new paper’s “at-a-glance” strategy and low price can achieve its aims.

“I think ‘i’ is an attempt by the publishers to have their cake and read it too,” said George Brock, Head of Journalism at City University London. “They’ve got a serious quality paper costing too much to run and they want to try and pull off the trick of using its material in a briefer … slicker way.”

Brock also said the digested read may not have enough substance.

“You’ve got to have substance for people to want to read your newspaper, at any price,” he said. “But I think ‘i’ doesn’t have very much of it.”

Some readers, however, have responded positively. On its first day, “i” received numerous good wishes and comments on Twitter, with many suggesting the paper compares favorably to its main rival — the 1.3 million-daily-circulation free paper Metro.

“I think (‘i’ is) definitely a step up from Metro in the terms of its news agenda,” said David Bennett, 27, a web designer.

“There’s a gap between the free-sheets and getting a quality newspaper at a reasonable price,” Bennet said by phone from his home in Glasgow. “It’s something that’s considerably better than the Metro at a price nowhere near as expensive as the competition.”