The Independent is to become the first national newspaper title to move to a digital-only future, owners ESI Media have announced.
The move will capitalise on The Independent’s position as the fastest growing UK quality newspaper website, and will ensure a sustainable and profitable future.
Rapid digital growth in the past three years has made independent.co.uk the UK’s fastest-growing quality newspaper site. Its monthly audience has grown 33.3% in the last 12 months to nearly 70 million global unique users. The site is profitable and is expected to see revenue growth of 50% this year.
Evgeny Lebedev, owner of The Independent, said: “The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers. They’re showing us that the future is digital. 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 Independent has always been a pioneering newspaper with a track record of innovation. It has a proud heritage as Britain’s first truly independent national quality title. My family bought and invested heavily in The Independent because we believe in world-class quality journalism, and this move secures the future of these vitally important editorial values.”
Steve Auckland, Group CEO, ESI Media, said: “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. 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.”
As a result of the move to digital-only, ESI Media will create 25 new digital content roles, launch a new subscription mobile App and continue to invest in quality journalism. New editorial bureaux will open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the US operation will be expanded.
We will cease to print The Independent and Independent on Sunday. The Independent’s last paper edition is expected to be on Saturday 26th March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected to be on the 20th March. 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.
ESI Media has also 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 under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE.
There will be some redundancies among editorial employees, the number of roles affected will be confirmed following a consultation period.
Under the ownership of Evgeny Lebedev, ESI Media has built a reputation for successful ground-breaking moves in the media industry. In 2009, it bought the London Evening Standard and quickly transformed its editorial and financial fortunes, making it a free newspaper, investing in editorial and sharply growing its circulation. Last year, the Standard made a profit of £5 million. And in 2014, ESI launched London Live, the first local London television channel. The business has grown quickly and is forecast to double revenues and break-even in 2017, ahead of expectations.