British newspaper The Independent, which began 30 years ago, will cease its print publication and become digital-only, the paper announced Friday morning.
The last print edition is expected to be published late next month. The i, a down-market companion paper aimed at younger readers that Evgeny Lebedev launched in 2010, had helped subsidize The Independent. But stagnant sales prompted Mr. Lebedev to unload the title. In his announcement, Mr. Lebedev confirmed a deal to sell the i to Johnston Press, a Scottish-based chain of regional newspapers.
“The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers. They’re showing us that the future is digital,” owner Evgeny Lebedev said in the announcement. “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.”
Attempting to put a cheery spin on the death of print, the announcement was posted on the paper’s site with the headline: “The Independent becomes the first national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future.”
“The unique editorial proposition of The Independent is perfectly suited to the global digital landscape. Following this decisive move to digital, we will be as focused and uncompromised as any start-up, but with all the authority and trust of an established newsbrand – a truly unique proposition,” said Steve Auckland, the CEO of ESI Media, the parent company of The Independent, as well as the London Evening Standard and a 24-hour entertainment channel called London Live. “We now have a clear and secure future path for our businesses. It’s also a further opportunity for our advertisers to capitalise on our growing, smart, affluent and digitally savvy audience.”
But the future, obviously, is not quite that rosy. Mr. Lebedev and Mr. Auckland did not publicly address the number of journalists who might lose their jobs, but The Guardian put the figure at 111, although noted that the number that is subject to change.
At least the i is hiring.