The Independent’s decision left me questioning the outlook for the landscape. Twenty years after the first newspaper went online – The Daily Telegraph in November 1994 – one of the titles synonymous with online news chose to cease printing.
The Independent, now owned by Evgeny Lebedev, will become the first national newspaper to migrate from print to a purely digital platform. Its circulation has slipped from a peak of 450,000 to just over 56,000, but its online presence has more than 70 million unique visitors a month around the world.
Was the decision based on the fact that everybody migrated to its free online offering? I’m sure this is part of the reason as there’s been a seismic shift in how the public choose to receive their news.
The Independent was always seen as an innovator. Some people have argued that it lost its way and is a long way from the newspaper it was when it started back in 1986, choosing to follow, rather than lead. Many will now be asking - will the Independent’s move online be a course soon followed by its peers?
Ironically to many observers (no newspaper pun intended) in the same week as The Independent announced its decision, Trinity Mirror announced it is to publish New Day.
The title is aimed at a mid-market predominantly female audience, with the aim of achieving a paid-for circulation figure of around 200,000. The New Day would appear to be going head-to-head with the likes of the Daily Mail and Daily Express, which isn’t a task for the faint-hearted.
Price remains a big factor in circulation wars. The 60p Mirror, published by Trinity Mirror, has dropped 12.3% year on year to 800,000 a day, while the revamped Daily Star, now 20p, has increased by 10.6% to over 470,000 a day during the same period.
The team at regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press clearly remains confident there’s a future in a low-cost daily as it has bought the i newspaper for £24.4 million from Independent Print, owner of The Independent.
Johnston’s strategy is to use the i newspaper as a national to reach larger advertisers and unlock their budget. While the i100.co.uk will be retained by Lebedev’s media business and rebranded indy100.com, Johnston will establish its own online presence for the i.
While the digital share of news consumption will inevitably continue to rise, it appears there are still those who firmly believe that newspapers have a future and are prepared to put their money where their mouths are.
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