About a week ago, ther was a story in the Media Guardian about the Independent launching a tabloid edition. This was confirmed late last week, and it went on sale on Tuesday, I bought one.
It's only available within the M25; a sensible, targetted marketing move, and almost a trial. All the content of the broadsheet appears to be in the tabloid, with one odd exception.
Like the Guardian (which started the trend) and the Times, the Independent has a tabloid review section. For the tabloid Indy, though, this isn't kept as a pull-out, but instead integrated into the sixty-odd pages of the paper proper. (Oddly, supplements like yesterday's Property and today's Education are still pullouts). This means that the cover splash isn't needed, so it's not much of a loss. However, there were complaints in Wednesday's letter page that couples couldn't share the pullout, so this may change. (It might also help to cut costs).
Other than that, how is the paper? It stands out on the newsstands; it's incredibly text-heavy for a tabloid, although Thursday's issue had a very large image (but no screaming 72+ point text, like the traditional tabs). It's possible to read on a bus, and even (to some extent) on a crowded train carriage, which would have been pretty much impossible with the broadsheet. All the content is there, but some of the organisation's a little odd; the review section is split over the TV pages, which get the centre of the paper for their spread, for example. Stylistically I find the Indy a little duller, and typographically heavier, than my usual read, the Guardian. (How much of that is Indy house style and how much is due to the tabloid size I'm not sure.)
However, it's pretty much the only tactic that would get me to buy the Indy rather than the Guardian; the last time I was tempted was in about 1998 when they had a (short lived) ultra-clean design policy, using no gutter lines and a couple of nice headline typefaces (possibly Trajan, although I may be misremembering). From that point of view, it's a success, and it'll be interesting to see if the rumours (thanks, Mark) of other papers considering a dual approach come to anything.