News that print editions of The Independent will cease next month as it moves to a digital-only format came as little surprise to retailers, who have reported a steady sales decline of the title.
Bill Harrison, of Harrisons Newsagents in Hyde, sells one copy of The Independent a day, and Mark Dudden, of Albany News in Cardiff – the only UK retailer with an Independent and i fascia – sells just 10 per day. He said: “It’s been a long time coming. My concern now is for the future of the i.”
This makes The Independent the first national newspaper to move to a digital-only model, which has fuelled industry-wide debate on whether more will follow.
Alex De Groote, a media analyst at stockbroker Peel Hunt, said: “You will see a lot of low-selling broadsheets, including the Guardian and the Financial Times, going online-only within the next 18 months. You have to consider this in the context of rapidly rising operational costs – especially with the introduction of the National Living Wage – which will serve as an accelerator.
“The tabloids, however, are likely to remain reliant on print – today The Sun sells 2 million copies a day, and the Mail sells around 1.8 million. But what these papers do want is to have more subscriptions.”
Douglas McCabe, analyst at Enders Analysis, doesn’t believe the change will be so black and white. He said: “When other titles switch to digital it is likely to be partial, switching off daily editions, but continuing to publish weekend editions for three benefits – to provide a print news digest, offer longer features and as a valued advertising platform.”
Giancarlo Calvo, an analyst at IbisWorld, agrees with Mr De Groote, but added that the time frame in which this will happen is likely to be much longer, and that publishers could also adopt the approach taken by the Evening Standard and Metro.
He said: “Newspapers know that the future of the industry is online. In the short-term, no other major publication is expected to close its print operations. The Guardian would be the only national publication with a certain risk of a similar closure, but its circulation figures are almost three times higher than The Independent’s.”
Others, however, are less convinced. John Vine, of News World in Shropshire, said: “I’ve got both young and old customers who are loyal to print. One customer tried to do the Guardian crossword online, and he did not like it.”
Ralph Patel, retailer and NFRN national president, said: “Print continues to offer an incredible customer experience, and this will be the case for many years to come.”