The Independent

Editor Christian Broughton and managing director, digital at ESI Media, Zach Leonard, told Gorkana‘s briefing event how the digital-only title has changed culturally, seen success across social platforms and how it is growing its global audience.

The Independent has gone through a major transition in its 30th year, but the decision to continue as a digital-only title in March has proven successful, according to Broughton and Leonard. Broughton said the move is allowing reporters to innovate and has helped it reach more global readers.

This year The Independent’s web site reported its highest ever monthly page views figure, 175m (+92% year-on-year and +47% month-on-month), with a total of 33m unique visitors (+79% year-on-year and +52% month-on-month) in July.

In addition, Broughton stated that the title has had around twice as much subscribers to its app, The Independent Daily Edition, than it did to its print publication.

Here are four key PR takeaways the duo shared with the audience at a packed media briefing, chaired by Gorkana‘s head of news and content, Philip Smith:


International outlook

The Independent has always had influence internationally as its, now discontinued, print paper was available outside the UK. However, Broughton and Leonard explained that its digital transformation has allowed staff to take a more international outlook. For instance, the story about “Rio 2016: International chefs cooking surplus Olympic food for city’s poorest residents” has become one of its most read articles this year.

Distinctive audience

Broughton said that when brands appear on the Indy they are reaching “the most attractive audience in the market place”. This audience was described as distinguished in education and level of income by Leonard. He says these two bits of “DNA” have been engrained in the publication since its start. The audience has grown rapidly in 2016, particularly in the US and across the female population.

Pitch in the PM

Broughton explained that due to The Independent’s digital changes the traditional news cycle has been turned on its head. He said: “Classically, on national papers mornings are a great time to catch somebody because they are away on afternoon deadlines. Now it’s the other way round, the mornings are really tight. Actually, towards the end of the afternoon you are more likely to catch someone with a bit of time.”

Two tips from Indy staff

The Independent newsroom was asked directly by Broughton to come up with tips for the Gorkana briefing. As a result, he’s pledged to make it easier for PRs to ensure that they have the right contacts, which includes refreshing Indy’s media contacts on the Gorkana media database. In addition, Indy staffers suggested that PRs contact them when they have expertise or facilities that journalists can use, as well as “complete” story pitches.


PR and comms professionals from a variety of sectors attended the media briefing as guests of Gorkana, Cision and PR Newswire. 

Jocelyn Murdoch, Communications Assistant at Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “It was fascinating to get an insight into The Independent’s transition to being a fully digital platform. Christian and Zach really placed an emphasis on heartfelt, quality journalism, showing that old world values really work in the digital age. It was also useful to get an idea of who is reading The Independent and the type of content that appeals to its global audience.”

Heather McLeod, senior account executive at PHA Media, added: “After the paper’s big announcement to switch to a purely digital strategy earlier on this year, it was really interesting to hear about the success this has brought the newspaper as a global news brand – positioning them as one of the go-to voices for news internationally. It will be exciting to see the opportunities this brings PRs throughout 2017.”

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