Independent considers international paywall as it axes editions

Posted on October 4, 2011

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So The Independent and The Independent on Sunday is to axe its overseas editions, as it looks to cuts its cost base. Is this a surprise? On the face of it, no. The Guardian did the same thing in the Summer.

Publishing newspapers overseas is massively expensive, but what’s interesting is that it might lead the paper to errecting a paywall for international readers.

The newspapers’ boss Alexander Lebedev believes he could cut a substantial chunk from the papers’ cost base by axing these copies and shift that spend to more pressing matters for the publications, like the Independent website, which is still a relative minnow compared to rival like the Telegraph and Guardian online.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Independent editor Chris Blackhurst said:

“You have to make a distinction between the UK and foreign readers. In the UK where you have a BBC it is very hard to make the case for a paywall but there is a case for charging overseas readers.”

He also hinted at parts of the website being relaunched where it underperforms. So there is it. Axe the printed foreign copies and replace them with a sort of international paywall. Will it work? Zach Leonard, the digital guru, at the Independent titles has a good reputation.

And the thinking could be that the Indy is relatively small online, 675,129 daily average users, compared to say MailOnline with 4,365,716, that it is worth a shot.

With the rise of tablet computers and iPads publishing a paid for site overseas could work. Certainly more so than a print edition in these challenging times.

One  source gave this analogy “Imagine News International publishing 100 copies of the Hindu Times in the UK! They are going to be obliged to do it but they are going to charge a heck of a lot of money for it.”

So the reverse works for UK newspapers publishing overseas. Guardian News & Media, publisher of The Guardian, ditched its overseas issues earlier this year.

What is, perhaps most surprising, is how many copies of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday are published overseas, 23,558 and 27,597, a day respectively, out of a headline circulation of 180,470 and 164,518.

The Indy, apparently, is a big read in the more cultural cafés of Northern Europe, where those of an intellectual bent like nothing more than reading DJ Taylor and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

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