13 Feb 2016

Independent newspaper to shut down print edition

1:42 pm on 13 February 2016

The Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers are to cease print editions in March, leaving only an online-edition, the owner has said.

no caption

Photo: AFP

Announcing the "digital-only" move, ESI Media said "some redundancies among editorial employees" would be made.

But it said there would also be 25 new "digital-content roles".

ESI has also confirmed it will sell its sister title, i newspaper, to Johnston Press, for an expected £24m ($NZ53m), subject to approval from Johnston's shareholders.

Evgeny Lebedev, ESI's owner, said: "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."

The last print edition of the Independent will be published on Saturday 26 March, while the last Independent on Sunday will be on 20 March.

ESI said the number of staff affected would be "confirmed following a consultation period".

It said a "significant number" of staff would move to Johnston Press, which also own the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and some 250 other local and regional newspapers, as part of the sale of the i newspaper.

The closure of the Independent's print editions will have "no bearing on the status" of the London Evening Standard - also owned by ESI - the company added.

The Independent's editor Amol Rajan tweeted: "Impossible to over-state how proud I am of the most dedicated, clever, industrious and brave staff in the history of Fleet St."

The Independent was set up in 1986, but circulation figures for December 2015, which count the number of copies of the newspaper distributed a day, stood at just over 56,074 copies a day on average at that point, down from a high of more than 400,000 a day average in the late 80s.

December's figures showed it far behind rival national newspapers, which ranged from the Sun on 1.8 million to the Guardian on 166,000.

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev took control of the loss-making newspapers in 2010 when he bought Independent News for Media for £1.

In 2014, his son Evgeny told the BBC the Independent could be sold if someone "offers the right price" - but he was "not actively trying to sell it".

'Brilliant and brave'

Journalists from other publications and broadcasters paid tribute to the title and its staff.

ITV political editor Robert Peston tweeted: "Closure of @Independent as print title is heart-rending, terrible. Such an important paper in its day."

The BBC's Andrew Marr, a former editor of the Independent, replied: "Not in its day, Robert. Its day is now!"

Editor of the Independent on Sunday Lisa Markwell tweeted some of the paper's most memorable front pages, adding: "My proudest professional achievement has been to preside over the brilliant, brave @IndyOnSunday team for 3 years."

Stephen Glover, a co-founder of the Independent, said the paper was selling "so few copies that it doesn't really make sense to go on printing it every day".

Speaking on Thursday - before the move was confirmed - he told BBC Newsnight: "If it is true then I think it will be the first of many papers which stop their print editions and have another existence online."

He said the Financial Times and the Guardian could also stop producing print editions "within the next few years", and in 10 to 15 years there would not be "very many" printed newspapers.

Mr Glover said there was a "longer question" about whether online-only papers could support the same number of journalists and do the "same sort of journalism" as printed ones.