As the i paper approaches its 1000th edition, some thoughts on its history

I would encourage all of you to zig with an idea while others zag

The excellent editor of this fine newspaper, Oly Duff, reminds me that this week will bring i’s 1000th edition, a statistic that would quite literally have stopped me in my tracks, save for the fact I wasn’t actually on a track, and I know what sticklers for accuracy you are.

Now that the paper is in Oly and Rhodri Jones’s safe hands, it is for them to mark the occasion formally and tell you what’s in store for the future. Me? I’ll remind you a little of its history with a view to taking heart from its lessons and encouraging all of you with an idea to zig while others zags.

Our boss Andrew Mullins’ idea for i was – let’s be frank – met with a range of negativity from bemused scepticism to sniggering ridicule. When I arrived to work on i’s launch in autumn 2010 to work with Simon Kelner, then editor-in-chief of The Independent, we knew we faced an uphill battle - not only was the newspaper industry in apparently inexorable decline, but the economy was still very much in recession.

We lacked the marketing resources of some of our rivals, notably The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian. And to make matters worse, we were launching into a bleak winter. Were potential readers going to trudge out into the snow to buy a newspaper they had scarcely heard of, let alone read?

It wasn’t an easy launch. The circulation numbers were not exactly making our rivals sweat. However the feedback from readers who had been “early adopters” both via email, snail mail and on social media was almost universally positive. Most people who tried it, liked it. Therefore, we just had to persuade more of you to do so.

It was in January 2011 that we ran our first advertising campaign featuring Dom Joly and Jemima Khan. Results were startling: over the first weekend circulation tripled – admittedly from a low base. It hasn’t really stopped growing since.

Yes, there was a second campaign a year later, with Ronnie Ancona and our own Mark Steel, but since that first January, i’s growth has been built on the back of word-of-mouth personal advocacy by you, our fantastically enthusiastic, loyal readers.

i has an extraordinarily interactive relationship between journalists and readers in the truest meaning of that word. You make it very clear you have much more than 20p invested in its success. To you that concise, quality mantra matters at least as much as the price, as does our pledge to actually listen to you in shaping the paper.

Since I moved over to the TV world last May, Oly and Rhodri have continued in the same vein – as, by all accounts, have you. It is vital you continue to keep us all on our toes, and that this sense of shared investment in i’s future continues. It is what makes i Britain’s only growing newspaper. Thank you all, but – blimey – where does the time go?

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live

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