I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again

Eagle-eyed readers of the property press will have spotted that The Independent last Friday ran a story also published two days earlier in the Homes and Property supplement of London's free daily, the Evening Standard.

The two papers share the same owner and there will be much more of this property story dual-use to come. The Indie, it seems, will top up 'duplicate' Standard pieces with some original non-London stories but much of its property content will have appeared in London before.

Many journalists will dislike this - they always prefer original content and of course they have a vested interest in maximising the number of new stories published as they would be employed to write them. Journalists also prefer to have complete independence about the properties and themes they write about and not have them as closely dovetailing with advertisers as they often appear in the Evening Standard.

As for others, the initiative has good and bad repurcussions.

The mainstream property industry, aside from its journalists, will probably welcome it. The Standard gives a large amount of its property editorial space to new-build homes (largely ignored by national newspaper property supplements) so if The Independent follows suit, using the same stories, one long-standing grievance of developers will be addressed.

Similarly, property industry chiefs like the fact that the Standard's tone on the housing market is relentlessly upbeat. A senior Barratt Homes executive once told me the Standard's property pages differed from the nationals because it always described the market as developers and estate agents wanted it to be, rather than as it actually was. The Independent will, presumably, now have a similar tone at least in those stories it duplicates.

Those property people involved with, or interested in reading about, less lucrative sectors of the market - social and green housing, for example, always well covered by The Independent in the past - may be less delighted by the change. Inevitably if much of the paper's property space is given to mainstream sectors as in the Standard, these minority sectors will be squeezed.

It is also interesting to speculate how The Independent will combine the ever-optimistic Homes and Property view of the central London market (which of course genuinely is very good right now) with the much more sluggish, gently declining prices across most of the UK outside of the capital. And should London's housing market shift into reverse gear one day, how will The Independent's property pages - until now known for its tell-it-as-it-is approach - cover the change?

Recycling stories is not unheard of. When I wrote a piece for the Mail on Sunday's property pages recently, it also appeared a week later in a local newspaper owned by the same group, Associated Newspapers. This was a one-off and the reason was that I was writing about a property well known in the region covered by the local paper concerned.

But the systematic re-use of stories now underway by The Independent is unusual. As a journalist, of course, I hope it does not catch on - not just because I'd like more work for colleagues and myself, but because we need a multiplicity of views and tones in property journalism.

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