Britain’s Independent newspaper is to disappear from news stands next month after its Russian owner said the 29-year-old title would only publish online, in the starkest sign yet of the pressures weighing on the newspaper industry.
The paper launched by a group of journalists in 1986 with the slogan “Independent, it is – are you?” has become Britain’s highest-profile casualty of the change in news reading habits brought about by the internet.
From a peak of around 400,000 copies a day, circulation has fallen to little more than one-tenth of that figure, despite innovations like moving to a tabloid from broadsheet format and a period of splashing on radically different stories from its rivals.
A move to sell profitable sister title “i” to Johnston Press , announced on Thursday, put the future for the print editions of the loss-making Independent and Independent on Sunday in doubt.
“This decision preserves the Independent brand and allows us to continue to invest in the high quality editorial content that is attracting more and more readers to our online platforms,” said owner Evgeny Lebedev in a statement on Friday.
“The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers,” added Lebedev, who also owns the free London daily, the Evening Standard. “They’re showing us that the future is digital.”
ESI Media, the commercial division of the Evening Standard, The Independent, i, London Live and their digital platforms, said it would create 25 new digital content roles, launch a new subscription mobile App and continue to invest in quality journalism.
New editorial bureaux would open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the U.S. operation would be expanded.
The Independent’s last paper edition is expected to be on Saturday March 26 with the last Independent on Sunday on the preceding Sunday March 20, ESI said.
“The move announced today has no bearing on the status of the Evening Standard, which continues to grow as a profitable and successful newspaper brand in its own right,” it added.
It confirmed that it will sell i newspaper to Johnston Press, subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval.
“A significant number of employees are expected to move across to Johnston Press …,” it said, but added there would be some editorial redundancies among editorial employees, the exact amount to be confirmed after a consultation period.