It’s been rumoured for days, and now it’s been confirmed. The Independent and the Independent on Sunday newspapers are to close, with the £24m sale of the i to Johnston Press.
The Independent’s last edition is expected to be on Saturday 26 March and the last Independent on Sunday on Sunday 20 March.
The Independent, a 30-year-old paper, will become a digital-only product, and the i will presumably have to find something else to cannibalise for its content (maybe Johnston Press’s own stable of regional papers).
In terms of jobs, i will be recruiting 51 people, according to its editor, Oly Duff. But there will be mass redundancies from the Indy; there are 150 full-time staff on the paper, but the number who will lose their jobs and won’t be folded into the digital operation is yet to be announced.
In an email to staff, owner Evgeny Lebedev wrote:
“Today the Independent titles announce an historic transition. At a time when our journalism is read and respected by more people in more places than ever before, we are embracing an exclusively digital future withhttp://www.independent.co.uk and its associated sites.
“We faced a choice: manage the continued decline of print, or convert the digital foundation we’ve built into a sustainable, profitable future. In choosing the latter, we will create 25 new content roles, launch a new subscription mobile App, enhance the redesigned, thriving http://independent.co.uk, open new editorial bureaux in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and invest further in our New York based US operation.
“We will re-name the hugely successful i100 site as http://indy100.com.
“I can now confirm we are selling The Independent’s sister paper, i, to Johnston Press, subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval.
“In addition, we will cease to print The Independent and Independent on Sunday. The Independent’s last edition is expected to be on Saturday 26th March and the last Independent on Sunday is expected be on Sunday 20th March, enabling us to focus our collective energy on the digital Independent.
“I believe this is the right decision at the right time for the world’s most free-thinking newsbrand. This transition follows rapid digital growth in the past three years that has made http://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 pointing towards a fast growing global footprint.
“We will be the first of many leading newspapers to embrace a wholly digital future. All of us are immensely proud of the Independent titles, which are better newspapers now than they have been for many years, thanks to your remarkable creativity, work ethic and passion.
“But UK print newspaper market conditions mean this change is inevitable.
“The planned sale to Johnston Press ensures that i will continue to flourish. Johnston Press will be commendable owners of this great, innovative newspaper, whose success has defied industry predictions, and which was named National Newspaper of the Year last year.
“We expect a significant number of employees to move across to Johnston Press under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE. A number of employees at Independent Print Limited will be made redundant.
“I regret this, but can confirm that all those on employment contracts and long term casuals who are being made redundant will receive two weeks’ pay, subject to conditions, for every year worked, plus your notice period.
“The Independent will now offer advertisers access to the world’s largest commercial platform for truly independent journalism.
“My family bought and invested heavily in the titles because we believe strongly in its values.
“Its journalism has set the agenda for nearly three decades, with world-class writing, reporting and analysis.
“Over the past six years alone we have launched a sister title that now outsells The Guardian, grown http://independent.co.uk to nearly 70 million global users a month, and won countless awards for our unique contribution to news and culture, with values of bravery, compassion, scepticism and wit to the fore.
“With the spirit of a start-up, and all the authority of our heritage, this transition means the world’s most innovative newsbrand can embark on a sustainable future. As we set about that, I would like to thank everyone for the part they have played in the development of this great institution.”
As many journalists, Indy and non-Indy, are now pointing out – this news makes the British media’s left-of-centre coverage even thinner. It is a big blow to the number of progressive publications on the UK’s newsstands.