When, in 2010, ESI Media owner Evgeny Lebedev asked Andrew Mullins whether he should buy the Independent newspaper, the then Evening Standard managing editor was pretty unequivocal in his response. “I said, ‘absolutely not’,” he remembers now. “It was haemorrhaging money and there was nothing you could do to save it.”
The loss-making paper was only selling around 88,000 copies, had a poor online presence and a high cost base. Nevertheless, Anglo-Russian businessman Lebedev pushed ahead with the takeover, tasking Mullins with slowing the paper’s slide, keeping the brand alive and building a new audience to sell to advertisers.
Mullins hit upon the idea of a sister publication, one that would meet changes in the consumption of news and information, breaking down the Independent’s editorial content into bite-sized chunks and directing readers to the parent paper’s revamped website for a deeper dive.
“Younger people wanted to graze and take on quick bits of information,” Mullins explains. “That was the proposition, but really it was always there to save the Independent, to make some money from advertising.”