By James Tout on 12 Feb 2016
What does the Indy’s demise mean for the PR industry?
And so, it’s happened – the death of a national newspaper.
Though heavily trailed, confirmation today by its Russian owner Evgeny Lebedev that the Independent is going to cease as a print publication caused consternation in many quarters.
ITV political editor and ex-BBC Economics Editor Robert Peston tweeted:
Closure of @Independent as print title is heart-rending, terrible. Such an important paper in its day
— Robert Peston (@Peston) February 11, 2016
Others have been more positive, not least – unsurprisingly – Indy editor Amol Rajan:
The @Independent is going digital. Fastest-growing quality uk newspaper site for past 3 years. Revenues 50% up last year …
— amol rajan (@amolrajan) February 12, 2016
The Independent now claims to have 70 million monthly unique users, up 33% on just 12 months ago and says it’s ready to “embrace a global, digital-only future”.
As yet it’s unclear how many print jobs will be lost at the paper, but it has announced that 25 digital-only roles will be created.
Newspaper watchers like Mail columnist Stephen Glover have already posed the question of whether digital news sources will retain the financial clout to employ sufficient heavyweight journalists to produce insightful, investigative work.
But anyone who’s followed the Audit Bureau of Circulation figures knows that really the Indy is just bowing to the inevitable. Print sales have been on a precipitous slide for well over a decade now as readers have gone digital in their everyday lives.
For many the question is now: Why on earth would you buy a grubby clutch of newsprint when you can get the same content on your shiny smartphone for less dosh?
PR professionals have mostly made the transition to the ‘digital first’ mindset pretty painlessly (even those of us that started out in newspapers). And for the most part, the days of clients asking if their coverage will appear “in the print edition”, as though it were somehow ‘better’, are gone. Most understand that always-there online coverage counts for so much more in the days of SEO than tomorrow’s chip paper.
But the question still remains about whether newspapers – in whatever format – can remain (or in many cases, become) profitable as digital-only. The Independent clearly thinks it can and maybe by divesting itself of the trappings and expense of print it’s onto something that many others will follow before long.
To a large extent, PR has diversified beyond traditional media relations so much that it’s no longer essential for our work to be filtered through the prism of the so-called mainstream media. These days, we can publish on our own channels and get our clients’ messages out there with or without the papers.
But it would be a foolish PR pro who was completely unconcerned with developments in the big media titles. Ultimately, the authority and gravitas that coverage in the press and media engenders can’t just be manufactured on a company Twitter feed.
So while the print Indy’s sudden death may not come as a huge shock, we all have a stake in seeing a thriving future for the digital journalism that will continue to have a symbiotic relationship with PR.