Website of i newspaper
"We just don't care," Martim Figueiredo, publisher and editor of new Portuguese newspaper i, tells delegates at this week's World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and World Editors Forum (WEF) conferences.

Less bluntly he means the paper is not afraid to experiment, to take traditional forms of reporting, production and design and turn them on their heads.

Launched in May following work with media consultancy Innovation, i has been described as a microformat newspaper. It's smaller than a tabloid in terms of page size and its pages can be stapled together.

"There's no regular sections anymore. We have a four-section daily newspaper and in those four sections we try to focus very hard on what our demanding and sophisticated audience asks us for," says Figueiredo.

"There are no obligations. The only obligation of our news team is to target what people want each morning (…) we organise the news so that people don’t get lost."

While the look of the newspaper’s pages changes on a daily basis - in particular the front page which regularly diverts from traditional formats using whole page infographics or dividing the page into quarters for example - there is a strong editorial drive behind i.

As well as including in-depth analysis of news and current affairs in its Zoom section, Figueiredo says the size of the paper requires heavy editing.

"We call ourselves the most edited paper in Portugal. We only have space for a certain number of stories to run," he says.

[See what i looks like at this link]

According to an Editors Weblog report last month, i's circulation rose from from 11,000 copies in May to 16,000 in August. But perhaps most significantly i has tapped into an audience that previously wasn't reading newspapers, as research suggests that 23 per cent of its readers did not regularly read newspapers before.

Despite its initial success the paper is reliant on supportive shareholders, he concedes. The paper has reached a compromise with them to break even by 2014. Based on current performance, i, which cost €8 million to launch, will bring in €4.5 million in its first year.

But Figueiredo is confident: "This is a very low circulation newspaper. We don't target big circulation figures. We will have a strong brand even if circulation figures drop slightly," says Figueiredo.

Online the paper is attracting 4 million unique users a month, despite not looking like a traditional news site. Breaking news stories are targeted at Twitter followers and social networks.

"Almost 9 per cent of our audience already comes from Facebook. When you log onto the i website you only have to use your Facebook login and everything is connected," explains Figueiredo, adding that the paper also has two social media editors.

"We are really focused on social networks so we can understand where this new audience is coming from."

The title is also in the process of building an e-research team to further develop its understanding of online audiences, but a great force behind the paper's online success has been the recruitment of younger journalists, says Figueiredo.

Last year to recruit for the site, i created - - and set potential recruits journalistic tasks but without telling them what tools to use for the job.

The result: around 1,300 applicants and 18 new hires in their early twenties, all of whom are working within i's newsroom.

As a younger generation, these new recruits fundamentally understand how mobile and social media can be used by the paper, says Figueiredo.

He may not care about received ideas of what a newspaper should be, but what Figueiredo does care about is print as a medium: "The brand core of this product is our newspaper (…) Without the print edition, without the credibility, we wouldn't be able to create new products."

The i of the paper's title stands for innovation, says the editor, and this doesn't stop at print and online experimentation.

But it is clear that the title is building a brand that could live beyond the printed newspaper. The publisher is, for example, developing a range of travel guides in the style of i for a client.

Next week it will launch a new distribution system, going into companies and delivering the paper to employee’s desks. 'i at work' will start in Lisbon and then expand to Porto and has taken some serious negotiation with the security companies at such businesses to allow the distribution team access. All will be run in-house and Figueiredo hopes this will let the paper further target a high end audience.

Even the layout of the newsroom is different: journalists are organised into three groups covering 'news hunters', development teams crossing multiple platforms and support staff. Fluorescent strip lights change colour to alert the team to different deadlines.

Time will tell if the title with its innovative approach to design, editorial and branding can grow into a successful, profitable business. If Figueiredo can return in a year's time to discuss i with delegates at the conferences next year, he will be happy, he says - both for his own paper and what it shows the industry can do.

All coverage of #WANIndia2009 from can be found at this link.

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