Its launch was heralded as a new dawn for journalism in the UK, a newspaper free from the clutches of Fleet Street’s press barons.
But in February, it was announced that the print editions of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday would close.
“The Independent has always been known for its pioneering work and world-class journalism and this special edition reflects that,” editor Amol Rajan said in a statement launching the last issue of the printed paper.
“The edition pays tribute to the enormous contribution of the team, both current and past, to this legacy, as we look ahead to the evolution of the Independent newsbrand, growing our digital, global presence.”
As the final edition rolled of the press on Friday night, many journalists at The Independent spoke of their pride to have worked on the paper.
ESI is in the late stages of selling the spin-off i newspaper to local newspaper publisher Johnston Press for around £24 million, according to a stock market announcement on Thursday.
But Johnston has not bought the “Indy” titles, which are to become the first two national newspapers to close since the News of the World was shut down in 2011. UK newspapers don’t disappear very easily: the last one before that was Eddie Shah’s Today in 1995.
Staff were informed at a briefing on Friday at noon.
Independent.co.uk, which attracts 2.7 million readers a day according to the auditors ABC, will remain as a standalone digital media brand.
The Independent titles were sold by Independent News & Media to Russian oligarch and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev for £1 in 2010 and run by his son, Evgeny. By the end of 2014 the Lebedevs were thought to have spent more than £100 million on their UK media brands, which also include the London Live digital TV channel and the London Evening Standard, more than half of which was spent on the Independent titles.
ESI Media said the title would continue online, as an alternative to managing the “continued decline of print”.
This year marks 30 years since The Independent burst onto the media scene, with the promise a new kind of unbiased, impartial journalism. Its marketing slogan said: “It is. Are you?”
It was launched by three former Daily Telegraph journalists – Andreas Whittam Smith, Matthew Symonds, and Stephen Glover – and went on to sell more than 423,000 copies a day on average by 1990, beating The Times and prompting a price war in the broadsheet market.
In 2004 the Indy and its Sunday stablemate shrank and became tabloid-sized (the paper’s management much preferred the term “compact”). From this point, the Indy became known as a campaigning “viewspaper” with front pages that editor Simon Kelner would use as a canvas to illustrate a single issue, often something quite apart from that day’s news agenda.
The paper was famous for campaigning journalism and brave foreign reporting: In the early 1990s Robert Fisk became the first Western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden, then known as a Saudi businessman involved in the fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn spotted the rise of ISIS before practically anyone else, as the judges at the 2014 British Journalism Awards put it.
The Lebedev era brought with it huge investment, but coincided with a period of huge change and economic pressure on legacy media brands. Today, The Independent has a full-rate daily circulation average of just over 40,000, fewer than the Liverpool Echo.
The launch of the cut-price, snappy i newspaper in 2010 was a shot in the arm for the company and quickly racked up sales of more than 180,000 a day with its 20p coverprice without cannibalising Independent sales. It repurposed Independent stories and cut them down, adding its own commentary and opinion, and appealed to students and older people who weren’t traditionally big newspaper consumers.
Now the Indy will continue online and its editors are faced with the task of doing what no UK newspaper has yet achieved: turning a traditional printed media brand into a successful, profitable digital-only product.
Here are some of the title’s most striking and famous front pages through the years.
Independent co-founder Andreas Whittam Smith at the paper’s launch
1. This first ever Independent front page, 7 October 1986.
2. Bono edited the edition of 16 May 2006, with its Damien Hirst-designed cover, and half of all revenues went to fighting AIDS in Africa.
3. This how the Indy bid farewell to Tony Blair’s premiership.
4. And covered the re-election of Barack Obama to the Oval Office in 2012.
The News of the World was the last UK national newspaper to shut down. A previous version of this post said it was Today in 1995.