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Posted on Tue 23rd Feb, 2016 in: Newspapers, Public Relations by Emma Lister

When I heard the news of The Independent going online-only, I - like many others - was saddened, as for 30 years the newspaper has told the news from a different perspective of the world. Following the news there was a flurry of reactions from journalists and media commentators. The Spectator's assistant editor, Isabel Hardman, said, "So so sad to hear about the closure of the Indy, a fine paper with such good people working for it. Will miss writing columns for it." Whilst The Indy has remained fairly vague when asked about job losses, it said "a number of employees"? will be made redundant. However, around 25 new content roles will be created and some members of the print team will be moving over. Having thought about the future of The Indy as an online-only title, I think it's an incredibly positive move. Here's why! Firstly, as the Indy's website is currently an online-version of the newspaper, the move to online-only will offer more of an opportunity for bespoke content that is commissioned purely for online, rather than re-purposed from print. The Mail Online is a good example of how a media outlet has really invested in its digital strategy, in isolation from its print counterpart, and seen a huge pay-off in terms of an increase in reach by creating a separate brand. A large part of Mail Online's appeal is its use of visual content such as exclusive pictures and video. With almost every story, there will be a video for readers to watch and a series of images. And online-only doesn't mean The Independent will lose out commercially. With only 40,000 copies of the newspaper sold daily, its website is already reaching a much bigger audience of around 5 million unique monthly visitors and is currently the fourth visited newspaper website in the UK. By becoming online-only, it can build on this reach even further, and generate revenue in the process, whether through traditional advertising or by working with brands to publish sponsored content and promote products through editorial features, such as Mail Online's Fashion Finder. On top of having more flexibility with visual content and the ability to accelerate revenue, the new online-only Indy has a shiny new website in the pipeline. Christian Broughton, digital editor at The Independent, said he wants to ensure the new site "embodies the qualities that made the print editions stand out"?, such as its campaigning journalism and quality in-depth articles. So, the Indy will be taking i's website 'i100.co.uk' and rebranding it as 'indy100.com', giving readers the chance to rate the top 100 news articles and share them on social media as they go. This is a style inspired by Reddit and promotes its 'voted for by the people' message - providing standout from other news media platforms. The real challenge for The Independent will be competition. Not only will it continue to compete with other traditional media sites, such as The Telegraph and the Guardian, but it will be up against the major players in the online-only news sphere, including Buzzfeed and Reddit itself. Without a print edition to back it up, The Independent will need to be innovative and publish content that is new and different. In my opinion, its strategy should be centred around mobile. With the launch of its new paid-for app, a lot of the content created will be mobile-friendly anyway, but there are other apps it needs to think about creating content for, like Vine, that are becoming popular as news providers for smartphone users. For example, Sky News - along with many of the other big media players - has its own Snapchat channel, which allows people to discover news in a much more interactive way. Social media is perhaps The Indy's website's biggest competitor when it comes to news channels, with Facebook being the top channel consumers go to for news. Facebook's Instant Articles feature, which has now been opened up to all publishers, will be a way for The Indy to publish full stories that load quickly, and can act as an additional channel to its own website. The key to making the most of this platform is by creating the type of content that will entice users, such as immersive videos, to bring the story to life, high resolution images where readers can zoom in and interactive maps which show where events happened. Overall, I think going online-only is certainly a positive move for The Indy. It will have so much more freedom to be creative and innovative in its approach to storytelling, and be able to appeal to a larger and wider audience than a broadsheet, without losing its inherent values. It just needs to approach it as if it is starting from scratch and think about the options that are available as an online news provider.

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