New Indy i is “irrelevant, ill-conceived and ill-fated,” says Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson

All the way from Australia where the voluble marketing columnist toils as associate professor of marketing at Melbourne Business School, University of Melbourne. Well it’s hardly Harvard is it?

Anyway Ritson is a good writer but his damning put-down of the Independent’s bid to revive its fortunes begs a few questions, not least that he’s not here in the UK to see it at first hand.

He compares the Indy’s efforts to revive its fortunes unfavourably with those of Ford, which has disposed of its non-core luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover in favour of concentrating on its ‘one Ford’ model line-up.

Well, yes, but Tata, which bought the luxury brands off Ford, is currently expanding its production in both the UK and China and awash with money. Just because Ford couldn’t handle a company with two bits in it doesn’t make the strategy wrong, it just means that Ford couldn’t do it.

As for the Indy’s i, a cheap (at 20p) version of the spectacularly loss-making main paper, it might well be an example of a second brand saving the main one, or rather the company. If i works then owner Alexander Lebedev will quietly inter the old Indy and everyone will be happy (apart from a few journalists who lose their jobs of course).

Unless his old pals in the FSB, formerly KGB, inter him first. But that’s another story (see below).

Marketing wizards have never had the best effect on newspapers. Years ago consultants Bain advised the Mirror Group that they should slash the price of the Daily Mirror, the better to compete with Rupert Murdoch and the Sun.

Nobody seemed to have told them that Murdoch’s News Corp had deeper pockets and was always up for a price war. They should have known this already of course, being ‘experts.’

Anyway the Mirror launched a price war, Murdoch responded and the rest is what you and even management consultants know.

Ritson may well prove to be right about the Indy and i.

The company is trying to do a hell of a lot on the basis of very little. But his preferred Ford-style management recipe for the Indy would never work in a million years.

All it would would do is get it to the same level as The Times and the Guardian. Which both lose even more money.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.