The Independent to shutter print edition in March, has sold the tabloid paper i to Johnston Press
Owner Alexander Lebedev said the publisher is now ’embracing an exclusively digital future’ that includes launching a new subscription app, adding foreign bureaus
The Independent, which just this week launched new a version of its mobile / tablet app, confirmed that it would be shuttering the print edition of its daily newspaper to go with a digital-only strategy. The company, owned by Evgeny Lebedev, also said it has a deal to sell its tabloid newspaper, i, to Johnston Press plc.
The last print edition of The Independent will be printed on March 26, according to The Telegraph (I don’t actually recommend clicking that link because of the paper’s obnoxious auto-play video ads).
The Independent is a very young paper compared to its UK competitors, first launched in 1986 by three former journalists from The Telegraph. The height of its print power was reached just a few years into its life when it had around 400K in circulation. Today, the daily has only a tenth of that.
The paper has had financial problems almost from the start, with the paper finally being sold to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev in 2010. A year before that purchase, Lebedev bought The London Evening Standard, which is said to be profitable and will remain in print.
“Today the Independent titles announce an historic transition,” Lebedev told staff. “At a time when our journalism is read and respected by more people in more places than ever before, we are embracing an exclusively digital future with www.independent.co.uk and its associated sites.”
“We faced a choice: manage the continued decline of print, or convert the digital foundation we’ve built into a sustainable, profitable future. In choosing the latter, we will create 25 new content roles, launch a new subscription mobile app, enhance the redesigned, thriving independent.co.uk, open new editorial bureaux in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and invest further in our New York-based US operation.”
As part of the move, the i100 website will be renamed as indy100.com.
Johnson Press, publisher of The Scotsman and other regional newspapers, will acquire the tabloid paper i for £24 million, the publisher confirmed. While some of the paper’s employees will be retained, some will lose their positions.
“This is a transformational acquisition for Johnston Press and an important step towards delivering our long-term strategy,” Ashley Highfield, Chief Executive of Johnston Press said in the company’s notice to shareholders. “i is a highly regarded newspaper with a clear market position and a loyal readership. By joining with Johnston Press the combined circulation will be equal to 9% of national daily circulation, making us the fourth largest player in the market. This enhanced reach represents a significant growth opportunity for Johnston Press in terms of national print and digital advertising revenue. It also rebalances our revenues towards less volatile circulation revenues.”
Johnson Press said the acquisition would “create the UK’s fourth biggest news publishing group, centre around a handful of leading brands, selling the equivalent of over 600,000 copies a day without significant exposure to the highly competitive London market.”
Because the tabloid paper does not currently have a dedicated website, its new owner said they see an opportunity now to launch new digital products tied to the newspaper brand.
Here is Alexander Lebedev’s letter to staff:
Today the Independent titles announce an historic transition. At a time when our journalism is read and respected by more people in more places than ever before, we are embracing an exclusively digital future with independent.co.uk and its associated sites.
We faced a choice: manage the continued decline of print, or convert the digital foundation we’ve built into a sustainable, profitable future. In choosing the latter, we will create 25 new content roles, launch a new subscription mobile App, enhance the redesigned, thriving independent.co.uk, open new editorial bureaux in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and invest further in our New York based US operation. We will re-name the hugely successful i100 site as indy100.com.
I can now confirm we are selling ihe Independent’s sister paper, i, to Johnston Press, subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval. In addition, we will cease to print The Independent and Independent on Sunday. The Independent’s last edition is expected to be on Saturday 26th March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected be on Sunday 20th March, enabling us to focus our collective energy on the digital Independent.
I believe this is the right decision at the right time for the world’s most free-thinking newsbrand. This transition follows rapid digital growth in the past three years that has made independent.co.ukthe UK’s fastest-growing quality newspaper site. Its monthly audience has grown 33.3% in the last 12 months to nearly 70 million pointing towards a fast growing global footprint.
We will be the first of many leading newspapers to embrace a wholly digital future. All of us are immensely proud of the Independent titles, which are better newspapers now than they have been for many years, thanks to your remarkable creativity, work ethic and passion. But UK print newspaper market conditions mean this change is inevitable.
The planned sale to Johnston Press ensures that i will continue to flourish. Johnston Press will be commendable owners of this great, innovative newspaper, whose success has defied industry predictions, and which was named National Newspaper of the Year last year.
We expect a significant number of employees to move across to Johnston Press under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE. A number of employees at Independent Print Limited will be made redundant. I regret this, but can confirm that all those on employment contracts and long term casuals who are being made redundant will receive two weeks’ pay, subject to conditions, for every year worked, plus your notice period.
The Independent will now offer advertisers access to the world’s largest commercial platform for truly independent journalism. My family bought and invested heavily in the titles because we believe strongly in its values. Its journalism has set the agenda for nearly three decades, with world-class writing, reporting and analysis. Over the past six years alone we have launched a sister title that now outsells The Guardian, grown independent.co.ukto nearly 70 million global users a month, and won countless awards for our unique contribution to news and culture, with values of bravery, compassion, scepticism and wit to the fore.
With the spirit of a start-up, and all the authority of our heritage, this transition means the world’s most innovative newsbrand can embark on a sustainable future. As we set about that, I would like to thank everyone for the part they have played in the development of this great institution.