12.02.2016 The Independent: Is this the beginning of the end for print journalism?

The print editions of the Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers are to cease publication in March, it was announced today.

Instead the 30-year-old titles are going to move entirely online as owner Evgeny Lebedev seeks to build the independent.co.uk website into an international news brand.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a national newspaper has closed. Today, which also launched in 1986, lasted less than ten years, folding (pun intended) in 1995 due to falling sales.

But the situation today is totally different, the media landscape having changed beyond all recognition in the last two decades.

Whereas Today closed amid fierce competition from its tabloid rivals, the Independent has become the first national newspaper casualty of the digital media revolution.

An era of decline

The move is not a total surprise to those with knowledge of the industry.

For several years the Independent’s declining revenues have been propped up by sales of the i, but the increasing circulation decline has made the print edition unviable.

In June 2015, the Independent had an average daily circulation of just below 58,000, 85 per cent down on its 1990 peak.

Commentators have been predicting the death of print journalism for a number of years, with the economics of producing physical editions of newspapers under growing strain as readers switch to reading news online.

On the other hand news organisations are still struggling to make their online ventures profitable, with advertising revenues failing to migrate from print to digital.

Efforts to make readers pay for content have also failed to catch on; the Sun scrapped its last paywall November after just over two years.

Whether the Independent’s announcement will open the floodgates to a mass migration of print titles online remains to be seen, but it does suggest that the day of the newspaper is numbered.

However, we think news in print will last for a few years yet. After all, the Sun and Daily Mail continue to sell millions of physical copies every day.

What does it mean for PR?

The PR industry has already started to adapt to the changing needs of the national and local press in its move to a digital-first future, but this will now have to be stepped up after the loss of such a major national title.

If PR agencies are to succeed in getting coverage for their clients in this new environment they must understand the nuances of the newspaper industry and how to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

And that’s how today’s news should be viewed – as an opportunity. The pressure on newspapers to make their online offer profitable will inevitably lead to more cost cutting and, unfortunately, job losses.

It is into this breach that the 21st century PR agency should step, offering quality content to fill the gap left by journalism’s cuts.