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Lebedev sets wheels in motion at the Independent

Lebedev sets wheels in motion at the Independent

Alexander Lebedev might not officially take over at the Independent for another month yet, but that hasn't stopped him from going about getting things the way he wants them at the title: the Guardian reported that the paper will unveil a new look from tomorrow, which is expected to include a new section comment and features section called Viewspaper.

The Independent's recent marketing and advertising campaign has funded the redesign - a project instigated by the Russian billionaire, as he seeks to turn the paper around and drive sales forward. Last month's circulation figures showed that sales of the paper were down 10% compared to the same period last year.

Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief, managing editor, and acting editor at the Independent, told the Guardian to expect a "radical redesign and overhaul", and said that he now has a marketing budget "in the millions" at his disposal, after former owner's INM were forced to trim it back to significantly.

The Guardian explained that "the Viewspaper title for the comment and features pullout refers back to the editorial strategy adopted by Kelner when he was editing the Independent in 2003. In September that year the paper adopted its current compact format, with front pages focusing on single issues, an approach that saw it dubbed a "viewspaper"." This sort of strategy, concentrating on in-depth analytical journalism, seems wise for a print product in light of the changing role of print newspapers as the Internet becomes more dominant.

Various questions are still hanging over the new future of the Independent, the two most obvious being the appearance of a new editor, and if the paper will indeed go free as some media pundits have predicted.

Former editor Alton resigned last month amid speculation of some degree of conflict between Kelner and Alton, which Kelner was quick to dispel. He also made clear that currently "there is no active process to find an editor for the Indy", despite many high profile names having been put in and then out of the frame. Kelner did not confirm either way whether the title is to go free, in the same vein as Lebedev's Evening Standard.

Independent columnist Stephen Glover expressed definite support for paywalls in an article published today entitled, "The future of the free press will rest on Murdoch making us pay." In this he made the case for paying for online content, responding to PM Brown's statement that paywalls will not work, as online readers are now used to having access to information for free. Whilst he grants that this is true, he also reiterates the opinion held by the majority of managers in the newspaper industry, writing "Mr Brown presumably does not expect Marks & Spencer to give away its clothes and food, so I'm not therefore sure why he thinks newspapers should give away their journalism."

Will the Independent's efforts to fortunes turn around in the near future? Will it follow in the footsteps of the Evening Standard and drop its cover price, or will it take a step in the other direction and start charging online?

Sources: Guardian, Independent

Alexander Lebedev will be speaking at a lunch event at the 17th World Editors Forum in Beirut in June. For more information on the World Editors Forum and the 63rd World Newspaper Congress, please see www.wanlebanon2010.com



Helena Humphrey


2010-04-19 12:54

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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