U.K.’s The Independent Ending Print Edition

By Richard Horgan Comment

The Independent prefers a rosier headline. But any way you slice it, it’s another hefty nail in the print coffin.

TheIndependentHed

From today’s announcement that the British daily will go digital-only in March:

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 comments thread below The Independent’s announcement is one to keep an eye on this U.S. holiday weekend. Readers and former staffers will continue to actively chime in with their thoughts on what this latest smartphone revolution battleground gain means. Among the comments at press time are these three:

totallytottingham: Well, another pleasure in life bites the dust. A 7:30 a.m. trip to the news agent, back and put the kettle on in about 10 mins later, settle down with tea and toast and the Independent. Like some other readers here, I don’t want to start the day with a computer, I don’t have a smartphone. Also I wonder how many staff will lose their jobs. I will probably start buying the only other tolerable paper but will miss Robert Fisk and Claud Cockburn for a start. Well done the Independent, at least you held firm against the attack on Iraq.

Eddy Shah: A sad day. A few of us, in 1986, set out to change the newspaper industry and give the power of production to the journalists. Then the Internet came long and that was the real death knell of the printed news world. But the power has moved on to the journalists and the low cost of production caused an explosion in a variety of magazines, and not newspapers as I had believed.

Best of luck to the new digital Independent and to Johnson’s with the ‘i’. That really is the newspaper I wanted today to be.

EllenMP: I can’t believe this. I love and use the Interweb as much as anyone but an online news site is not a newspaper. A newspaper has to choose every word with meticulous care, both because they have a limited number of column inches and because their words can’t be changed or unwritten afterwards. An online news source will never have the gravitas and discipline of a real newspaper.

Plus, I don’t want to have breakfast every morning in front of my computer, I want to have it over my newspaper at the kitchen table. I want to see how important the editor thinks a story is by how many inches he-she has given it, before deciding whether to read it or not. I want to leave the paper out on the table for my sons to read the sports after school, and tear out book reviews to file away for my dad’s birthday. I want to share it by sections with my husband on Sundays, and fold up the magazine in my handbag to read later. I want to know that when I finish the paper I know about everything important that happened the day before. You can never get that from a website with its endless links to infinite stories.

This is a sad day for journalism, made sadder by the owner’s attempt to spin the death of a terrific newspaper as a win. Maybe there were only 28,000 of us print readers, but that’s 28,000 people who have just lost something precious to them.

P.S. BuzzFeed UK reporters Patrick Smith and Scott Bryan have assembled a bittersweet look at some of The Independent’s most notable front pages. Included is the May 16, 2006 edition guest-edited by U2’s Bono.

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