Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Independent bows out of Northern Ireland market

Printing national newspapers in Northern Ireland comes at a cost. Rather than using a handful of print centres to cover the whole of Great Britain and relying on good distribution network over road/rail, the Irish Sea gets in the way and a local printer has to be found to produce a much smaller print run for the diminutive Northern Ireland market.

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.

Full colour Independent - Page 10 and 11 in Northern IrelandIn 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

(Like the Guardian and Observer, the Independent axed overseas international editions of their papers in October 2011.)

One Independent columnist noted that he'd no longer be able to see his own material in print!

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.


Anonymous said...

I emailed the Independent on Sunday when I was told it would no longer be there to help pass dull Sundays in Ballyclare. My late husband and I took the Indy from day one, although I switched to the i daily and Indy on Sunday alongside the Guardian and Observer for which I have a subscription. I hope they won't go the way of the Indy. It's easy but sad to see why Lebedev has pulled the plug since readers of anything other than sensationalist tabloids and dire local papers are an endangered species in my area. I still enjoy having a newspaper despite being technologically competent.

Anonymous said...

Local papers in NI are far from 'dire' as you so eloquently describe them. They're part of a long tradition of news reporting here and provide a vital source of local news and employment for very many people.