12th Feb // 2016
Evgeny Lebedev, owner of Independent Print Ltd, has today announced that print editions of The Independent will cease to exist. This comes as part of a deal in which sister daily newspaper “i”, launched in October 2010, will be sold off to The Johnston Press.
The total weekly readership of The Independent has been in decline in recent years, more than halving since March 2010 according to media.info. This is a trend seen in several other publications stats, so why the sudden switch to digital?
Similarities can instantly be drawn from the recent fate of BBC3, set to become an online-only channel during February 2016. Both 'losses' have been mourned publicly in huge numbers but the plans have stuck. This tactic has yet to be tested on a large scale in the UK. We've had retailers go from the high-street to digital (and indeed vice-versa), but a switch on this scale hasn't been assessed before.
One question that has to be asked is if other major news papers or publications will follow? Metro has the largest daily circulation in the UK, thanks to its prime position on a myriad of UK transport systems, but also has a large, growing, online audience. This is thanks in part to their social media strategy and articles designed to be shareable and easy-to-consume whilst on-the-go, much like their printed articles. Should and will Metro go online only? They have been seen investing more in to digital versions of the publication including mobile apps in recent years. Perhaps that's one to watch out for!
Many observers say that The Independent has always been an innovative brand: the first to convert from broadsheet to compact; launching “i” to bring in younger readers and attract commuters; an often impartial political stance. Is becoming a digital-only news platform just the next logical move for Lebedev and co? It will certainly be interesting to look back and see what impact loss of news-stand visibility has on the brand.