i: Can this little newspaper maintain its big influence?

Evgeny Lebedev can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief.

Evgeny Lebedev can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief. The i newspaper, the sister paper of The Independent, is being read by more people, according to the results of the National Readership Statistics.

The i, launched a little over two years ago and costs about 20p, is now being read by 612,000 people, 122,000 more than The Independent, according to a report from The Guardian.

The circumstances surrounding i and indeed The Independent have changed since that day in October 2010, when i became the first national newspaper since 1986 to be launched. The Independent needed a rebound, especially when it came to circulation, as it only had 183,000 readers of the print edition at that juncture, according to a report from Wired.

Andrew Mullins, The Independent’s managing director, said when it launched i had been made to address concerns of over information. “Time-poor newspaper readers, and especially commuters, have been telling us for years that they are inundated with information and just don’t have the time to read a quality newspaper on a regular basis,” Mullins said according to Wired. “We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century that is designed for people who have a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time that they have available.”

There were questions on if The Independent would be successful, if it would rely on the resources of a sister paper which itself had become a household institution across many parts of Britain. Wired noted at the time that it had been going up against similar papers such as Metro and City AM. Could The Independent get the attention of that commuter taking the Tube or the train to work?

Some, including Claudine Collins, the head of investment of the media planning and buying agency MediaCom, had expressed some skepticism towards it. “It’s a brilliant idea and there is definitely a gap in the market,” Collins told Wired. “If it was free it would do phenomenally well but with the cover price it won’t be as successful.”

It appears now that all the work and the planning has paid off. Its web site, though housed on The Independent’s site, has allowed to appeal to distinct audiences, in addition to its app on the iPad. Without question the i has appealed to not just the commuter but to the consumer who wants a succinct, yet distinct summary of that information that is available in a wide abundance.

Yet, as The Independent titles look to merge into a seven day operation amidst the opening of a new local TV station for London and close integration with the Evening Standard newspaper (which is also owned by Lebedev), can the i still maintain itself and be distinct, in the midst of possible job losses and focuses on visual content? Lebedev hinted in an interview with The Sunday Times cited by The Observer that the i could be free, but no plans have been formally confirmed.

All in all, the question of viability that began when the i was launched is still there. Whether it can be distinct with quality journalism as well as prevailing will be a question that Lebedev reflects on daily.

What do you think of the i newspaper? In the midst of reorganisation plans at The Independent, do you think the i can be viable? Would you read the i newspaper, free or not? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.