The Independent and Independent on Sunday print editions are to close, leaving publishers “shocked” and saddened by the end of one of the “last, best” places to have books reviewed in print.
ESI Media announced the closure of the two print titles on Friday (12th February), saying the products will move to a “digital only future”.
The number of roles to be made redundant at the newspaper’s 150-strong editorial team has not been revealed but its owner Evgeny Lebedev said 25 new positions would be created online.
It is so far unclear if the Independent On Sunday's literary editor Katy Guest’s position at the company has been affected.
The i newspaper has been sold to Johnston Press, subject to Johnston Press shareholder approval, with a significant number of employees expected to move across to Johnston Press under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, known as TUPE.
ESI Media said it planned to launch a new subscription mobile app and “continue to invest in quality journalism”, with new editorial bureaus opening in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with its US operation expanded.
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.”
He added: “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.”
Publishers and publicists have reacted with sadness and shock at the news.
Bethan Jones, head of publicity at Vintage, and chair of the Publishers' Publicity Circle: "This is really sad news for all of us - the Independent and Indy on Sunday's books and culture pages were some of the most excellent, varied and thought-provoking. The newspaper was also a brilliant champion of international literature, recommending new voices from around the world to UK readers through its annual Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. I really hope these values will be carried forward in its online incarnation."
Jon Howells, campaigns director at Riot Communications, said: “We are all shocked by the news. Obviously the Independent has plans for online and that is great, but it was one of the biggest print review outlets for books and book news and it will leave a gap. With reviews, there was so much competition for space as it is. The closure of the newspapers is a real shame.”
He added: “The i is a really dynamic newspaper and we hope that will continue under its new owners.”
Michelle Kane, PR director at Fourth Estate, said: "Their books and arts pages were fantastic, their journalism was always intelligent and thoughtful – it’s certainly a blow for the publishing community to lose these precious pages. More than that though we are just sad for our friends and colleagues at both papers and we wish them all well."
Veronique Norton, senior publicity manager at Hodder & Stoughton, said she was “sorry” to hear the news. “Both papers have excellent books and features teams who I’ve worked with for many years and have delivered thoughtful and considered content across their books and arts pages in general," she said. "I hope this shift to digital only will mean the editorial teams will have more time to dedicate to getting books news out to their ever evolving online readership, particularly younger readers through Indy100.com.”
Alessandro Gallenzi said the Independent newspaper was one of the few places which covered reviews of classic books, leaving only the Times Literary Supplement to cover that ground, which he said was “tough” for publishers.
“If I were to buy a newspaper, the Independent was it,” he said. However, he added: “Reading habits for news are changing, there is no escaping that. If I want to know the news I go on my phone and I can get it in an instant, that is clearly the problem for newspapers.”