Could this turn out to be The Indy's Plan B?

Up and running on Day One, The Independent was already as assured and distinctive and worthwhile as its long-established rivals. It was probably the best launch of our time; indeed a model for all time of joined-up editorial and managerial planning.

Within six years, it was selling 389,523 and overtaking The Times. Alas, 10 years on from then, the glory has faded. The Indy is struggling at 226,101 against The Times’s 704,116 and The Guardian’s 397,206.

In that decade, the business changed hands three times. It had undermined itself with its paranoid launch in 1990 of The Independent on Sunday. The objective was to extinguish the new broadsheet Sunday Correspondent (which expired anyway, leaving The Sindy to drain human and financial resources in the continuing conflict).

From founder Andreas Whittam Smith, effective control passed through unhappy investors El Pais of Madrid and Corriere della Sera of Milan to David Montgomery’s wobbly Mirror regime. And then to Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s group.

Now The Indy has relaunched. Well, sort of. It’s an odd relaunch that is not backed by a promotion campaign to reach new readers.

Not only are new readers people who don’t see your in-paper blurbs. They are young or youngish. Which is why the young or youngish Indy attracts more under-45s than over-45s (sharing that enviable strength with The Guardian, FT, The Sun and Daily Star).

So why devote the cover of its first Saturday magazine of the relaunch to "Old – it’s the new young", featuring "Athletic octogenarians"?

What’s The Indy’s real game? The vital clue has to be "The Broader View", its new slogan under the title. This may be more geographical than philosophical, embracing editor Simon Kelner’s identification of the paper’s "sense of purpose as a modern European newspaper".

For all its improvements (notably a stylish tabloid second section that Guardian guru Peter Preston is entitled to label Me2) "the new Independent" is under-equipped to cover Europe more remarkably than competitors. (It may need to rebase Robert Fisk to the Battle of Brussels.)

Could the mischievous Sunday Express media section be proved right? It reckons the big idea is to assist some foreign media conglomerate to recognise the potential of The Indy as a bridgehead into Euroland, catering for those seriously into cross-Channel business and culture.

Maybe The Indy will complete the journey attempted by the late lamented European.


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