Last week The Independent and Independent on Sunday announced it will no longer be printed as a newspaper from the end of next month (March 2016).
No longer will their faithful readers leave their homes, get in their cars, jog or cycle to the newsagents with a handful of coins to buy The Independent.
Instead, they will read their news online, in their bed, in their slippers, in their office chair, in their favourite restaurant, in the park… wherever they are, on a computer, tablet or phone. The Independent is the first national newspaper to drop its paper edition and focus entirely online. In this case at the independent.co.uk
We could argue that it was a long time coming. Given that the printed edition dropped from a peak of 400,000 to around a tenth of that, and that the website enjoys 58 million monthly readers, the numbers speak for themselves. Advertising revenue has been a difficult beast for online news outlets, but the online Independent is actually turning a profit.
But then the move has cost 100 jobs, and potentially started an avalanche.
The reality is, the Independent, sad though it is to see a newsPAPER disappear from the shelves, has changed with the times. It can tell the news when it happens, as it happens, in a much more interactive way. It is no longer restricted to a deadline schedule and a single static medium. It can use video, audio, live-streaming. It can immerse itself in the news.
Roll back nearly 30 years to the last ‘digital revolution’ when newspapers moved out of Fleet Street into Wapping as new technology replaced old. They were changing with the times too, but there were massive strikes, huge redundancies and bitter fights between workers and owners.
In 1985, Eddy Shah created the Today newspaper in an office suite in the Docklands with a bunch of Apple Macs, and every other national newspaper based in London followed suit.
Are we seeing the start of another Wapping? Will the changes at The Independent trigger another digital revolution? I think it will. We won’t see the same massive industrial action, although there will be job losses. But as The Independent‘s new business model starts to prove itself, others WILL follow.
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What we must remember is that the Independent hasn’t closed. It has just changed. It has recognised that it cannot claw back readers it has lost, advertisers who can’t afford to advertise in print, and it certainly won’t be able to get investment, not for printing a daily newspaper.
But it will be able to focus efforts on delivering round-the-clock news in a way that consumers will consume. Publishing on the web will no longer be a secondary measure. It will be a primary force.
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.”
Newspapers are just vehicles
Newspapers are dying people say. No they’re not. A newspaper is a vehicle, and vehicle gets rusty and old. When a vehicle is no longer serviceable, the passengers get out and find a new one.
News will always be in demand. Paper will not. The Independent has made a bold move. The job losses are tough to swallow, and if other publishers follow suit, there will be even more redundancies and a dearth of jobs.
It will be Wapping all over again. Some will even still be able to remember it the first time around.
The revolution has begun. Watch this space.
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