In Defence of Liberty

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Digital Independent


The websites and applications will be the only ways to read the Independent. (Edited: Guardian)

The Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers will cease to have printed editions in March, the owners ESI Media have announced [1]. It will become the first national newspaper title to only have digital copies.

“Rapid digital growth”

According to the Independent’s own online article on the announcement [2]:

Rapid digital growth in the past three years has made the UK’s fastest-growing quality newspaper site. Its monthly audience has grown 33.3% in the last 12 months to nearly 70 million global unique users. The site is profitable and is expected to be see revenue growth of 50% this year.

ESI Media will make “some redundancies among editoral employees”, but will create 25 new “digital-content roles”. Subject to approval by the shareholders of Johnston Press, the sister i newspaper will be sold for an expected £24m.

A digital proposition is not only the website, but includes the mobile and tablet applications. The Independent also runs the website, which will become, in attempts to mimic the shareable content popularised by Buzzfeed.

“Nightmare-inducing colour schemes”

There are problems and challenges ahead for the Independent in its reliance on digital formats. The main website is an unrelenting barrage of advertisements, wrapped poorly and grotesquely around news articles. As Jack Simpson of Econsultancy writes [3]:

This example from the Independent website has it all: sidescrolling banner ads, autoplay videos in the middle of articles, completely irrelevant promoted content and nightmare-inducing colour schemes.

This image from the Independent’s article on its digital future contains the same difficulties.


There are even more ads in the page. (Source: Independent)


User experience

The reliance on banner advertising and content marketing is detrimental to the user experience, and is a precarious form of revenue given the rise of ad-blocking software [4].


Ad blocking is on the rise. (Source: IAB UK)

The growing audience of the Independent may mean that it will move towards native advertising, or sponsored content. Mobile phones are now used more often to go online than laptops or standard computers, meaning that the Independent must offer a coherent mobile experience too [5].


‘Mobile first’ is the phrase. (Source: eMarketer)

The way in which people consume news and comment is changing. The Independent have made a bold step into the digital future for news organisations, where user experience matters as much as the journalists.


[1] BBC, 2016. Independent to cease as print edition. Available from: [Accessed: 13th February 2016]

[2] Independent, 2016. The Independent becomes the first national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future. Available from: [Accessed: 13th February 2016]

[3] Simpson, J., 2015. Is native advertising the answer to ad blocking? Econsultancy. Available from: [Accessed: 13th February 2016]

[4] IAB UK, 2015. New IAB UK research reveals latest ad blocking levels. Available from: [Accessed: 13th February 2016]

[5] eMarketer, 2015. UK Adults Spend More Time on Mobile Phones Than PCs. Available from: [Accessed: 13th February 2016]


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  1. Pingback: On Ad-Blocking | In Defence of Liberty

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2016 by in Other Interests and tagged , , .
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