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The end of The Independent: has print lost its place?

The end of The Independent: has print lost its place?

After 30 years, one of the nation’s most well-known newspapers has announced it will be ceasing print; the final issue of The Independent will be published on 26th March, with The Independent on Sunday’s final issue appearing the following day.

The Independent is renowned for its vivid front pages and campaigning tone. Most recently, its sensitive and compelling coverage of the European migrant crisis starkly communicated the gravity of the distressing situation. Its now-famous front page depicting the lifeless body of Aylan Al-Kurdi highlighted the reality and desperation of the crisis, engaging directly with every individual who saw that image.

Newspaper stand, closure of Independent

Image courtesy of Scorpians and Centaurs on Flickr

With this in mind, we have to wonder what the paper’s final front page will look like. How to sum up 30 years in one issue? A copy to look forward to that is for certain.

Of course, the digitalisation of a national newspaper automatically calls into question what this means for print media as a whole. This discussion is not new and has been going on for a lengthy amount of time. However, now The Indy has taken this step, these conversations will no doubt amplify.

Breaking news is now available at every second of every minute of every hour of every day, with alerts set up so we receive the stories directly to our phones.  We digest news quickly and in bite-size chunks, reading a feature during our mid-morning coffee break, an article during a lunchtime browse, scrolling down the news feeds on our train journey home. If a paper has an exclusive, it is increasingly difficult to keep this under wraps before it is released to the internet, where it becomes old news within seconds.

Therefore, does print news still have a place in our society? Is it an out-dated legacy of a time before life online?

Front page of the Independent

Image courtesy of At-Ram on Flickr

We have to wonder whether The Independent is acting as a trailblazer, ensuring the way we digest news is compatible with the modern person. Alternatively, is its decision to end a sign of defeat (which its reduced number of readers might suggest)?

There is already a nostalgic element to turning the pages of a paper or a book, with the new generation now exposed to digital, as opposed to being gradually introduced like generations of previous years. Yes, the world of digital brings exciting opportunities, with the ever-changing social climate allowing us to engage like never before. Yet, there is something different about picking up a physical paper copy of a paper. You may be encouraged to read stories you would simply glance at online or spend your time reading the whole piece instead of scrolling to the end. A paper is a curated collection of news, features and articles that are deemed the most important that day and should be considered as a complete package.

Although modernisation is important, I for one will be sad to see The Independent go and wistfully hope the others will not follow suit.

 

The fall of the paywall – enjoy it while you can

By Callum Mollison

News was born free. Its roots can be traced back to the “Daily Acts”, decreed by Julius Caesar, that were placed on public message boards in Ancient Rome. They contained news on everything from political happenings to prominent marriages.

Last month, Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid newspaper, the Sun, followed in this tradition by disarming its paywall. It may safely be inferred that this was largely for monetary reasons. Alas, the Sun has not suddenly emerged as a revenant of the enlightenment, fighting for the right of the public to free information.

The fact is that the Sun has failed to garner the same number of views as its rivals, the Mail Online and the Mirror, behind its paywall. The advent of social media has diversified methods of news distribution, so whilst paywalls have gone up, barriers to journalism have fallen – the information behind a paywall can be placed on Facebook by anyone with an opinion. However, those newspapers without a wall can benefit from the social media users option to share, which generates subsequent click-through views.

The Sun recently took down their paywall.

The Sun recently took down their paywall.

 

However, free news will not last. The emergence of the digital age may have given news-lovers a brief, charge-free moment in the sunshine, but the sun is already setting. To understand this you must look to history. The appearance of the first modern newspaper was accompanied by a charge when the Venetians decided to charge one gazette for news-sheets in 1556. The newspaper meant that news was no longer a state-funded right but an independent and profitable venture. As long as there is money to be made, news will never be free.

One survey has shown that nearly three-quarters of newspapers are now charging for online content and print-media is dying. The Sun’s publisher, News UK (owned by Rupert Murdoch), is, in fact, keeping the subscription model for its Times and Sunday Times publications. This model is also proving successful for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and the Economist.

As soon as other news sources learn how to grow their audiences, take advantage of social media and make more from advertising they will erect paywalls. Other business models are simply inadequate when people are willing to pay.

The future of the news is paved with paywalls. Why am I so sure of this? Look around you on public transport. Do you see young people carrying newspapers? Rarely. The real picture you see is dozens of people glued to their phones and this trend will certainly worsen as accessible WiFi spreads. The modern man doesn’t want to carry a newspaper; he wants quick, easy, weightless information. In fact, a 2013 study in the Guardian showed that 20% of 25-34 year-olds have already paid for online news. 

There will be no more Julius Caesar’s. There will only be newspapers catching up with technology.

Sun expose on Pizza Express’ halal chicken highlights a PR opportunity missed

Today the Sun reported an exclusive story revealing that all of Pizza Express’ chicken was halal. For those who are not aware, this means that the chicken is killed in line with strict Islamic law, allowing Muslim customers to eat it. For the vast majority of those reading, I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘Ok, cool.’

The Sun then goes on to state, ‘But diners are not warned in advance the chicken they will be eating is halal. There is no mention of it on menus and staff only tell customers if they ask.’ Again for me, this totally misses the point – halal chicken tastes the same as non-halal and as such the killing method is irrelevant.

Regardless of general views of the credibility of the story what it does highlight is that Pizza Express may have actually missed the boat with PR coverage here, and in turn may be losing out on custom.

Why weren't Pizza Express shouting about their halal chicken?

Why weren’t Pizza Express shouting about their halal chicken?

I was already aware that all the chicken used on Pizza Express’ pizzas was halal – something I found out after a Muslim friend suggested we eat there one evening – but I would bet the vast majority of the British public did not know this to be the case…until today.

We live in a world of political correctness where people are often nervous to make any comments regarding race or religion, but I think it’s fair to say that openly stating that your chicken is halal is not going to dissuade customers.

Pizza Express’ business model is reliant on repeat customer and I just can’t envisage someone turning their back on a Pollo Pesto due to how the chicken is prepared. ‘Sorry darling, but this is halal, we’d better leave…I hear Chicken Cottage does a varied menu…let’s try there.’

Multiculturalism is something to be proud of, to be celebrated, it baffles me that Pizza Express aren’t openly saying all their chicken is halal. If more people can enjoy their food it’s a good thing for both the customer and their bottom line – a textbook win-win.

As we move into a world where variety and compromise become increasingly important in terms of shopper needs (think vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), why on earth would Pizza Express not celebrate a measure which opens up their offering to a wider and growing demographic of the UK population?

Ironically a story which was set to do them some damage could well do more than anything they’ve done proactively to raise awareness of their halal chicken. It’s strange how these things can work.

Let’s hope this is more than a flash in a woodstove oven and that the story will encourage more retailers to be on the front foot with regards to menu transparency in future.