What does the end of The Independent in print mean for PR?

  • 16 April, 2016
  • Kate Simon

Editor Lisa Markwell and the staff of the Independent on Sunday see the final edition off stone on 19 March 2016

Having spent almost 15 years at The Independent and The Independent on Sunday, I was deeply saddened by the newspapers’ closure in March this year.

Not only has it signalled the end of an era, leaving many of my talented colleagues looking for jobs, but Britain has also lost two fine newspapers.

On the night of the final edition of the “Sindy” – the paper I spent most of those years working on, latterly as travel editor – I joined former colleagues on the newsroom floor to “bang out” the team – see the video below. It’s a curious Fleet Street tradition of literally hammering on desks as members of staff leave the office. Yet, despite the noise, it’s always a profoundly moving moment.

For many unconnected to the papers – whether or not they were even readers – the reduction of inky newsprint to digital brand caused largely regretful reflection. This was not a good day for quality writing, tenacious reporting, and opinion gathering. The papers would be sorely missed.

One of my favourite comments, from the Fond Farewells of the Indy’s special souvenir supplement, came from the broadcaster Jeremy Vine. “My father-in-law has The Independent delivered to his isolated home by a man in a van every day. It’s a holy ritual. I have visions of the van pulling up empty, and them holding each other and crying.”

However, another quote, from Charles Saatchi, struck me for a different reason. “Rather than bemoan the loss of a remarkable national newspaper, it is more uplifting to foresee the growth of The Independent online. It will bring its unique journalistic voice to a much larger audience across the world…”

No doubt, we are experiencing a period of huge change in the publishing world, with everyone wondering if newspapers will be extinct by the end of the next decade. It’s a confused picture.

In the week that the papers closed, a new daily national newspaper, The New Day, hit the presses for the first time, and the Spanish paper El País announced its intention to go wholly digital. The Indy and Sindy’s little sibling, i, remains on the newsstands. Sold to Johnston Press for a reported £24m, it will harvest content from Independent.co.uk.

But what does this shift towards digital mean for public relations professionals? I recently met the online travel editor of a national newspaper who reported that they still meet resistance from some PRs to online-only exposure, especially when it comes to supporting trips. We put our heads in our hands; to prioritise print over digital coverage is a big mistake for any business that has an online presence.

At Traveltappers, we value the impact that print coverage can have, but we also understand the importance of raising our clients’ profiles online. Our slogan, ‘Travel PR for the Google age’, sums up our strategy. We place a strong emphasis on link-building – earning backlinks to our clients’ websites from targeted, authoritative online outlets – often referred to as SEO PR.

In the eyes of Google, the global leader in search, these earned links defer authority to our clients’ sites and will help to boost their Google search rankings, with the potential of being put in front of many more relevant customers. These links also provide our clients with the most effective method to date of measuring the return on their investment in our work – Rich Leigh’s article on the subject is a great starting place for those looking for a simple explanation.

It was a dark day when The Independent and The Independent on Sunday closed their print editions, but the digital future is bright.