[Aaron Hurst | Contributing Writer]
The owner of The Independent, Evgeny Lebedev, announced in February that the publication, along with The Independent on Sunday, plans to become an online-only publication. This progression for the newspaper group is set to make over 100 of its workers redundant, but Lebedev is adamant that this the right step forward.
“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,” he explained.
Lebedev’s explanation suggests that there is a fear surrounding low readership figures for print versions of his flagship newspapers, which poses major problems for the organisation, such as the high costs of printing, which the owner said: “cannot be sustained”.
The advancement of the online versions of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday will see the editorial style receive a facelift to have it match the renowned quality of the print versions.
However, a key statistic that contradicts the belief of a declining interested in printed work in favour of the online is that of books. The sales figures of ebooks have slowed down in the last year while printed copies of books have managed to maintain a high level of interest. The American Booksellers Association, for example, produced a tally of 1,712 member bookstores in 2015 in the US, which is a substantial increase from the 1,410 counted five years previously.
Although, there is a difference in the purpose of usage between the two types of print media that could explain this statistic – books simply have a longer shelf life than newspapers do – these figures also hint that jumping straight onto a digital platform and removing print entirely may just be an overly optimistic move for the time being.
So, taking The Independent’s decision to move permanently to the digital and the status of printed publications as a whole, what will this mean for the future of newspapers and the landscape of journalism?
History and Journalism student, Cat Charker, reckons the future is bright for the industry:
“I feel that journalism moving more and more online is a good thing. I find it much easier to access news online and prefer being able to access it 24/7. I think journalism courses do prepare students for a completely online workplace; skills are often transferable, and many lecturers put focus on online-only issues.”
Journalism and Creative Writing student, Jonathan Morgan, also feels positive on the whole about the future of his chosen field of study and future work:
“From a social standpoint, [news going online] could be a hinderance as people will feel less inclined to go out and buy a newspaper and instead will stay at home.
“Overall, though, it will be a good thing in the long run; the more news goes online, the more accessible it will be to a wide variety of people. I also think people will participate more in reading the news if it’s linked to their social networks, and therefore may talk about it with their friends more.”
With not only The Independent, but also a number of student publications across the UK, such as the University of Essex’s The Rabbit and De Montfort University’s Demon Media, ceasing printing and moving exclusively online and with our own Trident Media potentially going in a similar direction, it’s starting to look like it’s only a matter of time before the move to the digital world becomes the case for the entire journalism industry. But for now, the printed newspapers that have been a favoured source of news for nearly 300 years are here to stay.