When The Independent announced four years ago that it was going to concentrate fully on digital publishing, and cease its print edition, it was a decision met in some quarters with scepticism. Under the disobliging headline “The Independent: a newspaper killed by the internet”, a piece in one of our competitors commented: “While a cacophony of voices exists online, the loss of a groundbreaking newspaper which was once considered radical and anti-establishment is likely to be keenly felt at a time of political upheaval and discontent.”
While not as disobliging as the wreath sent round by another rival to the Indy’s editorial offices to welcome the launch of the first edition in October 1986, this death certificate was also premature – and completely wrong in its reasoning. The Independent is far from absent. The internet, if anything, saved The Independent.
It was precisely because of the web’s confused, chaotic conspiracies and discordant madnesses that the calm voices, radical attitudes and enduring values of The Independent were needed and indeed welcomed as we grew our online presence. The Independent’s journalism found a vast new global audience, unimaginable before. We should not have been surprised, but it was heartening. The Independent had always been “forced to innovate”, as we always say, but success on this scale – not mere survival – is never preordained. Profitability, and the growth of our reporting teams, have returned after an absence of some decades.
So far from crawling into some corner to conveniently expire, in the last four years, The Independent, troublemaking as ever, has once again confounded its critics, and has prospered by its presence on the internet.
Today, we have an audience of up to a hundred million readers each month, more during the current pandemic, as more and more people turn to a trusted and truly independent source of advice, analysis and reliable information. The Independent is the UK’s largest quality digital news brand, with subscriptions to Independent Premium and The Daily Edition growing. We must be getting something right.
But that pessimistic article of 2016 was right about one thing, though the scale of the political upheavals it mentioned to come were far greater than anyone presaged. In the spring of 2016, after all, Barack Obama was still in the White House and few gave a boorish reality TV star named Donald Trump that much chance of winning the White House. David Cameron was still in Downing Street presiding over a small but stable government. His EU renegotiation and the subsequent Brexit referendum victory were assumed to be little more than formalities, an interlude before George Osborne took over. Corbynmania was “a thing”. Nigel Farage was in semi-retirement, Boris Johnson was an amusing afterthought, there were no gilets jaunes, the international effort on climate change was still alive, and various potentially deadly pandemics never seemed to actually materialise in Britain. Isis still looked invincible; and the British royal family seemed boringly immutable. TikTok was what clocks did. There were even some who thought Leicester City wouldn’t win the Premier League.
Since then, as we know, we have experienced some fierce hurricanes, real and metaphorical. This collection of front pages of our Daily Edition from these turbulent years offers some insight into our times – and a reminder of how much the country and, we hope with no immodesty, the world needs the internationalist, liberal, environmentalist values The Independent has always stood for. Our reporting and analysis from the Middle East, for example, by Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Bel Trew, Borzou Daragahi and more is unsurpassed in its intelligence and prescience. Kim Sengupta’s dispatches from Ukraine to Iran to Zimbabwe have proved once again the worth of independent-minded journalists telling the stories as they see them on the ground. In election after election, vote after vote, leadership crisis after leadership crisis we have tried to make whatever sense we could of politics under Cameron, May, Corbyn and Johnson. We are proud too of our campaigns for a Final Say referendum and for the homeless, as well as our calls for urgent action on the climate emergency. We might also remember, in this strangest of years, the World Cup, Olympic Games and summers of sport in easier, happier times.
The Independent has been there to report, analyse and comment upon these momentous events just as we always have been since 1986. A talented, tireless team of journalists, the support of committed owners and – above all – a growing, loyal and independently minded readership have meant our digital future is at least as bright as our print one ever was. Thank you.
This article is part of a special edition of the Daily Edition, featuring 50 of The Independent's most memorable front pages from the past four years. To sign up to the Daily Edition, visit the app store or use this link. If you are already a premium subscriber, contact our customer support team to upgrade on 020 3615 2990 or contact us at email@example.com.