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Independent to close print operations and go digital only

12 Feb 2016  |  David Pidgeon 
Independent to close print operations and go digital only

After 29 years, The Independent and Independent on Sunday are to cease all print operations and move wholly online - the first national newspaper titles to do so.

In a statement, Independent owner ESI Media said the closure of the print operation will "capitalise on The Independent's position as the fastest growing UK quality newspaper website, and will ensure a sustainable and profitable future."

The move to digital-only will create 25 new digital content roles, ESI said, and will include a launch of a new subscription mobile app. However, the website will remain open and ad-funded with no plans for a paywall.

A new editorial bureaux will also open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the US operation will be expanded.

However, ESI Media CEO, Steve Auckland, confirmed there will be redundancies among editorial staff - yet there is currently no clear indication of how many jobs are likely to go.

"The number of roles affected will be confirmed following a consultation period," Aukland said.

The news comes as Johnston Press confirmed it is to buy the Indy's sister publication, i newspaper, for £24 million (subject to shareholder approval).

Under the deal, 50 employees - out of around 300 staff - are expected to move across to Johnston Press under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE.

However, given the i currently uses content from its older sibling, it is unclear how the operation will function under a new owner or the full impact on editorial roles.

Unsustainable print losses


The Independent's current circulation is 56,000 - a figure that has been declining steadily since 2007 when circulation was 220,000.

The i newspaper, was down -3.5% year on year, but has a current run 268,500, while The Independent on Sunday was down -4.3% over the last year and currently sells 93,000 copies each week.

In contrast, the Independent website attracts 2.8m unique daily browsers.

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."

Auckland added: "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."

Other parts of the business, such as the i100.co.uk site, the news source for millennials, will become indy100.com.

The Independent's last paper edition is expected to be on Saturday 26 March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected to be on the 20 March.

Today's announcement has "no bearing on the status of the Evening Standard", ESI confirmed.

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