Farewell Independent.

18 February 2016

The newspaper industry is changing, […] driven by readers. They’re showing us that the future is digital.
Evgeny Lebedev

Publisher ESI Media announced on Friday that it’s going to cease the print editions of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday after over 30 years.  Meanwhile The i will remain on the scene in print under the new ownership of Johnstons Press, publisher of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post.

Should we be surprised?  Probably not.  Daily papers are still one of the preferred news-sources for many, but it’s no secret that they have been struggling for some time.  Online news sites, blogs and social media are attracting more and more readers, giving them access to latest developments, trends and events as they happen and – more often than not – free of charge.

The Indy has long been a frontrunner when it comes to providing quality news digitally and has been able to establish itself as a profitable online platform.  With this in mind, it’s equally unsurprising that ESI Media has announced that it will turn the Independent into a digital-only operation after the last print edition comes out on 26th March. 

And if you believe Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent, London Evening Standard and local TV channel London Live, we can expect that more publications will potentially follow in the next year:  “The newspaper industry is changing, […] driven by readers.  They’re showing us that the future is digital.” 

So what does this mean for the communications profession?   

As the media landscape evolves at an accelerating pace, it’s us up to us to not just lag behind, but stay ahead of the curve and understand what the consequences of digitalisation are.   There are different ways of addressing this:  some agencies will continue with “business as usual” and bring in digital specialists to broaden their overall talent spectrum; others will invest heavily in training their existing staff in digital PR, social media and blogger engagement. 

For us, we believe that the dividing line between “traditional” and digital communications is obsolete.  No brief is being approached without a digital element to it.  At the same time, traditional forms of print and broadcasting retain their power to shift opinions and influence.  At Mercieca, it’s not about online vs. offline; they go hand in hand, whether our objective is to engage consumers or stakeholders. 

The Independent’s move to digital heralds a media world that will move at an even faster pace, become more interactive and create an even bigger appetite for shareable news that come in easy-to-consume formats (which explains the unstoppable rise of video content).  And by the way, this is true for trade media as much as for consumer media, as our recent interview with retail publisher Newtrade demonstrates. 

Whatever the format, here’s to wishing The Independent the best of success for its new digital chapter!

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