The Independent is to become the first national newspaper title to go digital-only as Johnston Press today (12 February) confirmed its intention to purchase the i newspaper for £24m from its existing owner Evgeny Lebedev.
Under the plans, ESI Media will create 25 new digital content roles and launch a new subscription mobile App. New editorial bureaux will open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the US operation will be expanded.
“The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers,” said Lebedev in a statement. “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.”
The 30-year-old newspaper will cease its print run on 26 March, according to an email sent to staff. The i100.co.uk site, a Reddit-inspired news source for millennials, will be rebranded as indy100.com and retained by ESI Media.
The news comes as Johnston Press confirmed its acquisition plans for i, predicted earlier this week, which will create the UK’s fourth biggest news publishing group, selling the equivalent of 600,000 copies of various publications each day.
The newspaper will continue to syndicate content from the Independent, which is not part of the deal.
— Oly Duff (@olyduff) February 12, 2016
Significant recruitment to new i editorial team over coming weeks. Appointments to 51 roles (2/4) — Oly Duff (@olyduff) February 12, 2016
The i’s circulation revenue grew at 24 per cent year on year in 2015 and accounted for 64 per cent of its total revenues in the financial year to 27 September 2015. The newspaper also reported an operating pre-tax profit of £5.16m in the same year, up from £2.59m in 2014. These figures are likely to have played a major part in Johnston’s decision to acquire the newspaper.
Ashley Highfield, chief executive of Johnston Press said: “This is a transformational acquisition for Johnston Press and an important step towards delivering our long-term strategy. i is a highly regarded newspaper with a clear market position and a loyal readership.
“By joining with Johnston Press the combined circulation will be equal to 9% of national daily circulation, making us the fourth largest player in the market.”
Steve Auckland, CEO of ESI Media, added: “We are incredibly proud of the success of i since its launch in 2010. In just five years, i has changed the face of national newspapers, demonstrating that you can innovate in print.
“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of i for their dedication, ingenuity and creativity. A magnificent team effort!"