So it’s goodbye to the printed version of The Independent. It doesn’t feel like it’s half my life ago, that it was launched. I remember excitedly buying the first issue; pictured here with the last one.
I wrote recently, that The Independent’s plight is a symptom of what will soon become a circulation Tsunami of print closures. So it was no surprise when the iconic El Pais announced it too will be dropping its print edition. But at least El Pais has a market-leadiing digital audience, which The Independent hasn’t.
This chart highlights how fickle a cross-analogue/digital brand is in the digital world. You only need to review how many digital only entities choose to utilise legacy media to build or sustain their brand values – Microsoft on TV, Google in The Guardian, the nauseous comparative sites with TV ads that insult a viewers intelligence.
And here is the lesson from the Independent.
While it enjoyed extraordinarily high brand values during its life – we all remember “It is. Are you?” – It never managed to overcome the ruthless, well-funded UK news industry. And in the digital space, they will struggle to establish scale and a point of uniqueness, even with Lebedev’s commitment.
The Guardian is enjoying stellar growth in the wider anglophone world, thanks to some extra-ordinary journalism, and perhaps the most sustainable trust-based business model. Meanwhile the Mail is reliant on a cerebrally vacant obsession with the celebrity of non-people with content priorities very different from its print parent.
HuffPo and Buzzfeed have established themselves as mainstream players, enjoying essential appearance on news reviews on TV and radio. But the same Alexa data shows that their world rankings are also falling.
So my question is as much about how the concept of “News” is evolving in the modern world, as it is about the relative jockeying and success of the traditional and emerging players.
These are critical times. We have the maniac Trump dominating the US political debate (BTW in Scotland and the north of England,the word trump is a fart). There is increasing social polarisation crisscrossing Europe with parallel political disparity. To say nothing about global extremism.
But somehow News, as we define it, is losing traction. Nowhere more so than here in Scotland, where half of Scots want independence from the UK, but within Europe, while the majority of English people want independence from Europe, but for Scotland to remain in the UK. Meanwhile the scale and quality of debate within the media in Scotland is woeful. The situation in the UK, and Scotland is reflected across the European landscape.
Again, as I’ve reported before, the excitement surrounding last year’s Referendum campaign here, had virtually no impact on newspaper readership levels.
As a lover of print, going back forty years to the days of hot-metal, mono-type production, I regret the demise of print, but as a greater lover of the power of free expression, I am convinced that the past is the past (“and in the past it must remain”) and we are some way from a new News media capable of addressing and challenging the social and political issues that we are all facing.