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The Independent’s last print editor writes

Thursday, 18 February, 2016

“The business model for printed general news from Monday to Friday is kaput.” So writes Amol Rajan, the editor of The Independent. His entry in the Spectator Diary is titled: “From the start, I knew I’d be the Independent’s last print editor.” So what’s the future for journalism, if not print? Specialism, says Rajan. “Thriving periodicals such as the Spectator and Private Eye can pursue that. But for providers of general news in a landscape dominated by the BBC, free is the future.”

And the future of The Independent? Rajan points to i100. “It’s a kind of smart Buzzfeed that does concise, shareable, video-heavy news.” Typical stories:

  • Everyone’s in love with this man dancing in the cold and it’s not hard to see why
  • This young woman decided to use a paint roller to apply fake tan. Not a great idea
  • Husband asks wife (yes, really) for help with his Tinder profile, immediately lands two dates

Is this kind of bottom feeding the way forward? Michael Wolff threw a very heavy wet blanket on Rajan’s vision on Monday in USA Today: “… the effort to compete with native digital news outlets like BuzzFeed means traditional news organizations, with traditional share price values, must, like the venture-capital supported natives, pay more for traffic than can ever hope to be made back from advertisers. In this model, the digital natives can yet hope to sell to deep-pocket buyers, whereas the traditionals can only go out of business.”

Amol Rajan is right when he says that the business model for printed general news from Monday to Friday is kaput. What he needs to do now is make the Independent brand synonymous with a solution that makes digital general news profitable from Monday to Sunday. The odds are against it, but Yevgeny Lebedev has lots of cash, still.

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