BY CLAIRE MEADOWS
It is a surprise “year by year” that more titles have not followed The Independent’s success in moving to a digital-only platform, the title’s newly-appointed Managing Director has said.
Speaking to the Society of Editors (SoE) Executive Director Ian Murray to close the keynote discussions of the Society’s Virtual Conference for 2020, Christian Broughton, former print and online editor of The Independent, sat down with the SoE, in conjunction with the London Press Club, to discuss his priorities for the year ahead, the Independent’s investment in its TV brand and international expansion, the demand for “trusted sources of news” during the pandemic and America’s “polarised” relationship with the press.
Looking to the title’s move online in 2016, Broughton said that the decision had been a “tremendous success” and he continued to be surprised that no other title of The Independent’s size had followed in its footsteps and “shut print and got it right”.
Faced with continuing to lose “millions year after year in print”, he said that The Independent’s decision to go fully digital had seen it hit profit immediately and the title has been “in double-digit revenue growth every year since then” he said.
He added: “As a lot of the established ways for print making money and distributing itself have been challenged over the past year, I am a little surprised that more people have not looked at our success and been encouraged to do something similar.”
Broughton said that while a lot of print titles continued to be in the mindset of trying to grow digital revenues to offset the decline in print revenues, the Indy’s shift to digital-only in 2016 had continued to allow it to focus on digital “standing on its own two feet” and growing successfully, he said.
He added: “We have had this very strong, very solid double-digit revenue growth for some years now and we have just finished a year where we’ve had record revenues and record profits. We came through it really well. We are really agile and very good at sticking to growth and making those plans work. A lot of my role now will be leading specific ventures and initiatives to dynamically grow some interesting parts of the business.”
Looking to the title’s immediate future, Broughton said that focuses for the year ahead included bringing “daily programming online” through investment in Independent TV.
He said: “It is a big evolution of our multimedia offering – we want to bring daily programming online. Our reach is already considerable, in the average month we serve around 50 million video views just through our own website and then there’s Youtube and Facebook and all kinds of platforms on top of that. There is a whole world of distribution and monetisation off platform as well as on platform.”
What makes The Independent different from other initiatives in the TV space, he added, was that other companies had followed a “cost-first” approach to videos online whereas The Indy had already invested in its video offerings.
He added: “We have already worked on the monetisation and distribution. We are already serving a really big amount of video to our audiences and we are already making a considerable amount of revenue from that. We feel like we are already ahead in those two very difficult areas.”