In the past, the capability of local printers has meant that while the format of the Guardian changed to full-colour Berliner, the newspaper reviews page was omitted from the G2 insert in Northern Ireland.
When the Independent went full colour in September 2008, the Northern Ireland version took a while to catch up, leaving some photographs spanning the centre spread, one half in colour, the other in black and white.
In the case of the Indy – the smallest of the main UK national daily newspapers with a circulation of a mere 105,000 (compared with the Sun's circulation of around 2,500,000) – they can't need more than a couple of thousand copies printed in Northern Ireland and distributed each night.
From the 2nd July, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday will vanish from the shelves of Irish newsagents. Its owners – the Lebedevs – have decided that the distribution costs are too high and have made the commercial decision to withdraw from the Irish market. Updated with the Independent's company statement:
The full edition of The Independent will cease printing in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland on 1 July. This decision has been made in the light of the extremely high costs of printing and distributing so few copies in Ireland. However, we are happy to be able to offer our readers in Ireland a wide range of alternative ways to access The Independent content. Readers in Ireland can continue to access The Independent through the i newspaper, The Independent on iPad, The Independent's smartphone app or online at independent.co.uk.
(Like the Guardian and Observer, the Independent axed overseas international editions of their papers in October 2011.)
While it won’t sound the death knell for media plurality, it does reduce the choice of news outlets available in Northern Ireland. It seems unthinkable that while the Independent was part of Independent News & Media it would have exited the Northern Ireland market. Could the Independent eventually withdraw from other localities: Scotland, Wales, or anywhere outside the M25? With the Guardian only on double the circulation of the Independent (216,000) will it too pull out of Northern Ireland within the next couple of years?
The more popular and smaller 20p i is still expected to be printed each morning and be on sale in Northern Ireland. In the meantime, Northern Ireland will no doubt continue to provide the Independent with lots of stories.