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UK Independent becomes latest newspaper to cease print

Britain's The Independent and The Independent on Sunday newspapers will close their print editions in March. Both will continue to publish online for now.

The Independent will publish its last print edition next month and then make a "historic transition" to digital-only. The 30-year old liberal Independent will have the dubious honor of becoming Britain's "first national newspaper title to move to a digital-only future," according to the ESI publishing company.

"Impossible to over-state how proud I am of the most dedicated, clever, industrious and brave staff in the history of Fleet St," editor Amol Rajan tweeted, referencing London's newspaper row, where little media - and The Independent is not among them - is still made.

The Independent on Sunday will go online-only on March 20, and the daily edition will follow on March 26. For years, mediamakers have fretted

over the loss of newspapers

and the takeover of the Internet.

'Sustainable, profitable future'

A group of journalists launched the newspaper in 1986 under the slogan "Independent, it is - are you?" The Indy has employed such high-profile journalists as the war reporter Robert Fisk, Will Self and Helen Fielding, who have also gained renown as novelists.

Like other newspapers, however, The Independent has seen its print circulation plummet with the rise of digital media. It has become the United Kingdom's least-read national newspaper, now distributing fewer than 60,000 copies a day - down from a high of more than 400,000 in 1989.

Since 2010, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday have belonged to the father and son Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, who also publish the right-wing freebie tabloid London Evening Standard. The owners announced that layoffs would follow but did not specify how many people would be let go, from which divisions or when.

"We faced a choice: manage the continued decline of print or convert the digital foundation we've built into a sustainable, profitable future," Evgeny Lebedev said in an email to staff. "The newspaper industry is changing, and that change is being driven by readers," he added. "They're showing us that the future is digital."

Despite the planned cuts, the bosses have pledged to create 25 new digital content roles, launch a subscription mobile app and continue to invest in journalism. New editorial bureaux are to open in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and the US operation would expand.

The Lebedevs have sold the commuter-focused centrist daily "I" to Johnston Press, which publishes regional papers across the UK, for 24 million pounds (31 million euros/$35 million). "A significant number of employees are expected to move across to Johnston Press," according to ESI.

mkg/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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