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The death of print newspapers

As The Independent makes plans for its final print edition, George Caulton discusses the landmark decision and the future of journalism

By George Caulton

No more than a week ago, Evgeny Lebedev declared that the multi-national newspaper branch, The Independent will be making a drastic decision, being the first national newspaper to become entirely digital, ceasing to produce a print copy. Following recent statistics in relation to the demise of print journalism, the last print newspaper of The Independent will be released at the end of March 2016 and will then be fully enhanced online due to a decrease in print readership.

Despite The Independent moving to a digital platform, this does not mean that the newspaper was unsuccessful. Founding editor, Andreas Whittam Smith stated that the newspaper “condemned to innovate health coverage and education coverage, they created the first Saturday magazine and were the first quality newspaper to become tabloid, which The Times immediately followed”. Indeed, The Independent undeniably had a successful run in regards to print media, and achieved a lot in its time as a live source of print journalism. Since 2009, The Independent has seen a steady fall in their broadsheet newspaper circulation. In 2015, the circulation was below 100,000. In fact, John Jewell, Cardiff University’s director of undergraduate studies in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, stated that “circulations [are] continuing to spiral downwards (daily sales of The Independent stand at around 40,000, down from the highs of 423,000 in 1990) the future of the print edition would have been one of managing further decline”.

Whilst this may be the case, there has been a chiasmatic effect- as print journalism circulation has decreased, The Independent’s digital platform and e-media editions has increased in viewers. It is not only The Independent however, that has become a victim to this cause. Other global branches of news such as The Financial Times and The Telegraph also correlate with the findings of The Independent.

The movement of The Independent marks a significant shift in relation to the contemporary digital landscape. With news being made much more accessible on mobile apps and the internet, many other print organisations will be soon to follow. Evgeny Lebedev commented that “the newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers”, “they’re showing us that the future is digital”. John Jewell stated his belief that “the future is digital”. The advancement of social media has allowed society to become ever more digitalised, offering a platform where communication between social capacities between friends and news features can be fused together, which in turn re-shapes the opportunity of the media. Websites such as Twitter and Facebook are also seen as news hubs in themselves due to news having the capacity to spread across the world in a matter of seconds. This therefore, challenges the need for print newspapers due to a quicker, more informative e- platform replacing the necessity of print journalism.

Whilst newspapers are seeing a notable shift in media platforms, both formal and legal documents such as UK laws and statutes continue to be printed on vellum (AKA goat skin). Indeed, this may be a tradition and a way of preserving the original documents yet as we move into the digital age, there is no reason why this archaic method should continue to be enhanced. As times change and alter, these aspects need to compliment the ever changing mediated environment.

Indeed, for journalists and regular buyers of The Independent it is rather saddening that at the end of March 2016, The Independent newspaper will be no more in our high street stores. 2016 marks a further addition to the ever- growing digitalised culture.

From a more personal perspective, journalism is an ever growing industry and I like many others, am not at all surprised to see print media begin to move over to a digital platform. The statistics given and the advancement of technology show a drastic change in society’s consumption of media input. Although it may be saddening, look at The Independent’s shift as a transformation of society and the media industry as a whole.

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