The owner of the Independent has confirmed that the newspaper is to ditch its print editions and go online only, making it the first national daily to cease publication since Today in 1995.
In a related move, regional publishing group Johnston Press has confirmed that it will purchase the i newspaper from Independent Print Ltd, which also publishes the Independent. It marks Johnston’s first move into the national daily market.
There had been feverish speculation about the future for the Independent titles over the past week.
Although the Independent’s circulation had dwindled to an insignificant level by national newspaper standards, it will still be disappointing news for its print suppliers. The daily paper had an average circulation of around 58,000 and the Sunday edition just over 97,000. By contrast, the circulation of i is more than 274,000.
Trinity Mirror prints the Independent newspaper editions, while Polestar prints its weekend supplements at Polestar Chantry.
ESI Media is the commercial division of the London Evening Standard, Independent, i, the London Live television channel and associated digital platforms. In a statement, it described the move as embracing a “global, digital-only future”.
The firm’s owner Evgeny Lebedev 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 Independent has always been a pioneering newspaper with a track record of innovation. It has a proud heritage as Britain’s first truly independent national quality title. My family bought and invested heavily in the Independent because we believe in world-class quality journalism, and this move secures the future of these vitally important editorial values.”
Although 25 new digital roles will be created as a result of the move, there will also be an unconfirmed number of redundancies.
The Independent newspaper would have celebrated its 30th anniversary later this year. Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev acquired it in 2010.
The London Evening Standard is not affected by the deal and there has been speculation that its circulation could even increase from the current 900,000.
The Johnston Press deal to buy i is subject to shareholder approval. The group will pay an initial £22m in cash plus a further £2m in April 2017. Johnston chief executive Ashley Highfield said it was a “transformative acquisition” for the business and would make Johnston Press the UK’s fourth largest newspaper publisher.
The i made a £5.2m operating profit on turnover of £26.13m in the year to 27 September 2015, according to unaudited figures extracted from Independent Print's financial statements.
Once i joins its stable Johnston Press will sell more than 600,000 papers a day.
It is acquiring i’s goodwill, intellectual property rights, certain trading contracts, and its stocks of newsprint.
The Independent titles will cease print production next month.