Can The Independent’s subscription app lure readers away from its free website?

The Independent has launched a subscription app in a bid to get its “loyal” print readership to switch over and embrace the “virtual version” of its newspaper.


The app’s daily edition consists of 100 curated articles. Users can flick through different sections including business, comment and sport and are able to change the order if they wish. Consumers can pay for the app on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis, with the usual monthly price £12.99.

Zach Leonard, managing director digital at ESI Media, told Marketing Week that the subscription app is part of the publisher’s strategy to embrace its digital-only future, but will still look like the original newspaper.

“In terms of how we went about creating the app, we wanted the [brand] essence and user experience to be preserved, although in digital form. We are very much trying to create a virtual version of the newspaper,” he said.

Leonard said the publisher has invested heavily in the app in a bid to create a more “direct relationship with its readers and subscribers”.

The launch of the subscription app comes after the paper’s publisher announced in February this year that it would be ending its print run, with the last paper edition expected to be on Saturday 26 March and the last Independent on Sunday 20 March. At the time of the announcement, Jon O’Donnell, group commercial director at ESI Media, said the Independent’s online-only edition will give the brand the ability to engage with advertisers “with much more clarity”.

Scarce in-app advertising

The subscription fee will be the brand’s main source of income, and has resulted in The Independent taking a “scarcity model” for its in-app advertising.

He explained: “We don’t intend for advertising to be the dominant revenue stream within the app. Every 10th swipe or page an advertisement will appear. We will also have full data in terms of the amount of swipes served per edition. So far, we are seeing an average of 30 pages per user and so they are very engaged when moving through the content.”

The brand’s first goal is to move all of its current subscribers, which currently stands at just under 10,000 people, across to its mobile app. Afterwards, the brand will be looking towards expanding its readership on a global scale, which it will do through social media campaigns and programmatic advertising.

“We have invested for a year and a half in growing the brand’s presence in the US, so the US team is very excited about using the app as a means to broaden awareness. The Middle East and Asia are also two of our other core markets,” he added.

Getting readers to switch over

Leonard is not worried when it comes to convincing readers to pay instead of reading news online for free, as the brand will place an increased focus on content that is exclusive to the app.

“We are planning to use it as a platform for any exciting editions we might have, such as around the Olympics or the US election. A lot of content will be unique to the app itself, whether that’s the leaders, business content or the features folding into the weekends. That’s a key step to [get consumers to pay],” he clarified.

“The app is a real commitment on our part to invest in a platform that’s different to our website. Over time, we can consider how we may need to augment that by adding additional services or do more interactive editorial, which will be an exciting phase.”



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  1. Jag Gill 16 Mar 2016

    Surely the loyal print readership are loyal because they like the feel of a physical newspaper in their hands. I may be wrong but I sense it’s the print format that keeps them. Will be interesting to see retention rates.

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