It came suddenly, late on Wednesday – rumours that The Independent could be sold and its print editions closed. Speculation was rampant as to the future of a cornerstone of British journalism. Then, earlier on Friday, Evgeny Lebedev confirmed that The Independent would stop its print editions and move solely online, and that the i newspaper would be sold to Johnston Press.
The Independent will cease publication in print on 26th March, while the Independent on Sunday will cease publication on 20th March. The i newspaper is to expand in staff, according to a tweet from its editor, Oly Duff. The Evening Standard, the London newspaper which was majority owned by The Independent, is said to have not been affected.
Significant recruitment to new i editorial team over coming weeks. Appointments to 51 roles (2/4)
— Oly Duff (@olyduff) February 12, 2016
‘A sustainable future’
Meanwhile, Lebedev said the Independent would transition to a digital only publication. Lebedev said this was the best option amid current trends.
“My family bought and invested heavily in the titles because we believe strongly in its values,” Lebedev said. “Its journalism has set the agenda for nearly three decades, with world-class writing, reporting and analysis. 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.”
BIG news (about the news): Independent to cease as print edition, owner announces https://t.co/1fYyeii2Uj
— Ellie Patten (@elliempatten) February 12, 2016
The transition to online by The Independent comes as newspapers attempt to measure their broader role in journalism, amid a decline in advertising revenue and as more people turn to the internet for news.
Rachel Sharp, a lecturer at Brunel University in London, in a message through the social network Twitter, said the move was not surprising, considering the direction of sales.
“The sales figures speak for themselves, it simply wasn’t selling enough,” Sharp said. “The Indy was such a pioneering newspaper, which had a capacity to stun its readers with brilliant poster front pages, proper journalism, and thorough journalistic values that I find are all too rare these days.”
Sharp says that people are looking for immediacy when it came to news in the digital age.
“People want their news immediately on an electronic device,” Sharp said. “They want sound bites, not proper journalism.”
The death of newspapers?
It is said that a push is to be made to keep The Independent’s big names as it began a shift online. The site, however, has been criticised because of a focus on click-bait instead of quality journalism.
In an interview with The Guardian, Steve Auckland, the chief executive of The Independent and Evening Standard’s parent company, acknowledged the criticism and said changes were coming.
“We are going to change it a little bit,” Auckland said. “It is a good website but we will push it harder so there is more quality there, more investigative journalism. It is a good website but we will do more with it.”
Independent aims to keep stars and boost quality in digital shift https://t.co/dWgTWxBpkD
— Mark Sweney (@marksweney) February 12, 2016
However, Sharp says that The Independent’s brand of journalism online will continue to flourish.
“The Indy has always been home to quality journalism,” Sharp said. “I have no doubt that will continue through the online presence.”
As The Independent makes this transition, the debate on the future of these publications continues. In an interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, the paper’s co-founder, Stephen Glover, said other prominent publications, like The Financial Times and The Guardian, could go the same way in the next few years.
Independent co-founder Stephen Glover predicts FT and Guardian likely to follow Indy and abandon print edition in next few years #newsnight
— Ian Katz (@iankatz1000) February 11, 2016
Sharp also says that this does not signal the beginning of the end of newspapers, though such direction is possible.
“I think it’s possible, commercial decisions like that, sad though they may be, have to be taken if you’re not making money,” Sharp said. “It’s all about the profit.”
What do you think of the decision to close The Independent? Have your say in the comments section below.