The Independent newspaper to become digital only


The owners of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday newspapers have confirmed the print version of the titles will close, leaving an online-only edition.

ESI Media said The Independent, launched in 1986, will become "the first national newspaper title to move to a digital-only future".

The Independent on Sunday will go online only on March 20, with The Independent following on March 26.

The move comes after the paper's owners Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev agreed a deal to sell its cut-price sister paper i to regional publisher Johnston Press for around £24 million.

The Independent newspapers are part of the group owned by the Lebedev family, who have other media assets including the Evening Standard and local TV station London Live.

ESI Media said the website has seen its monthly audience grow 33.3% over the last 12 months to nearly 70 million global unique users.

It added the site is profitable and is expected to see revenue growth of 50% this year.

The move comes at a time of increasing difficulties for the British newspaper industry, with print advertising revenues falling and few titles having found a profitable online business model.

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."

ESI Media said as a result of the move it will create 25 new digital content roles, launch a new subscription mobile app and continue to invest in quality journalism.

It added that due to the expansion of new editorial bureaux will open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and its US operation will be boosted.

The group said the Evening Standard is unaffected by the move, "which continues to grow as a profitable and successful newspaper brand in its own right".

The Independent was launched by a group of journalists led by Andreas Whittam Smith. It enjoyed initial success rising to a circulation passing 400,000 by 1988, and claimed it was free from proprietorial influence.

Early advertising featured the famous strapline "It is, are you?", and later editors included Andrew Marr and Rosie Boycott.

The Independent on Sunday launched in 1990, with Stephen Glover as editor.

However, over the years and under different owners the circulation and ad revenues of the titles began to shrink as the newspaper industry lost readers.

In March 2010 ESI Media bought the titles from Irish mogul Sir Anthony O'Reilly for £1.

The Independent's current paid circulation is just over 40,000 while its Sunday sister title sells just under 43,000 copies.

By contrast the i, bought by Johnston Press, has a circulation of 275,000 and reported profits of £5.2 million last year.

The Sun's Kelvin MacKenzie Slags Off The Independent