As The Independent gears to become a digital-only operation, planning to publish its final print edition in March, it has the opportunity and the challenge to rebuild its newsroom to rival that of digital-native outlets.
"The huge opportunity it's got is no longer needing to synchronise workflows with something that supports the print operation. It can now act like a pure-play digital player because it is that," Adam Tinworth, publishing strategist and journalism trainer, told Journalism.co.uk last week.
Christian Broughton, The Independent's digital editor, said changes in newsroom structure are currently in the works to renew the title's focus on data journalism, video, and international and investigative reporting.
"We're moving a lot of the talent across from print to digital. It's going to be an extraordinary moment of expansion for us from a digital point of view," he said.
So what can we expect from the new Indy?
The Daily Edition
With news of the print shut-down also came the launch of a new paid-for app from The Independent, called The Independent Daily Edition. Designed primarily for tablet use as a "morning edition", Broughton calls it a "print-like experience".
"It looks and feels just like a newspaper so we're not going to close the door on that side," he said.
The app is funded by a subscription model, with users paying either £2.99 a week or £12.99 a month to access it. It is aimed at readers who prefer a "well-curated and paced news experience" with separate sections such as news, comment, business or sport in a familiar place.
On top of the curated, finite reading experience, Broughton said the app might also feature exclusive stories that will be published elsewhere later or will not appear on the website at all, although plans on the matter are still evolving.
The app is part of a drive to reach audiences where they are, which includes The Independent's presence on Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, and the upcoming Google Accelerated Mobile Pages.
A new structure in the newsroom
As journalists including Middle East correspondents Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn will make the jump from print to digital, Broughton plans to reinforce connections between highly experienced but print-focused writers and those in the newsroom who know web audiences best.
"In most places you'll have the most experienced journalists talking to the most experienced commissioning editors. Now because print as a medium has been around for longer, that will usually mean you've got people with strong print heritages on both sides of that conversation.
"If you're then trying to create a digital product maybe that's not the right mix."
In creating a stronger connection between what used to be two different sides of the newsroom, Broughton hopes to see "small adjustments" in the commissioning and the format "that will immediately start to open doors".
Investing in international reporting
While working to transform its quality print journalism into digitally successful output, The Independent is also looking to expand its international network of journalists, planning to open three new bureaux in Beirut, Paris and "most likely" in Hong Kong.
"The overseas reporting is absolutely part of The Independent's identity and it's also often the most expensive form of journalism," said Broughton, adding that quality journalism is also key to driving audience growth.
Once the three new international bureaux are "successful", Broughton hopes to continue the expansion.
Diverse revenue streams
Entering the digital-only world of publishing and leaving behind all print revenues means entering a world of uncertainty, where there is no recipe for becoming sustainable.
With ad-blocking a growing threat, Broughton believes publishers are not doing a good-enough job in explaining to readers why the trade-off between adverts and in-depth reporting is a good deal.
"[Foreign correspondents] are putting their lives on the front lines here, and if we're spending the ad revenue on journalism jobs and really expensive premium journalism, if that means you have to have adverts on the page that's a pretty good value exchange." He added news outlets, including the Independent, should start better packaging this message.
The Independent already has diverse revenue streams, including a commission-based e-commerce venture through IndyBest and the newly-launched The Daily Edition app. "We try new things all the time," said Broughton, who does not believe in putting all your eggs in one basket.
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