Independent management warns journalists print edition in question beyond 2015 unless cuts made

Senior management at The Independent have told staff that they could struggle to produce a print edition beyond 2015 unless proposed costs are cut

At a meeting held yesterday to discuss a new wave of redundancies at the Independent titles, managing director Andrew Mullins and content director Chris Blackhurst for the first time hinted that the survival of the print edition of The Independent could be under threat.

According to one well-placed source journalists were told that selling 48,000 paid-for papers a day (The Independent’s current Monday to Friday average, excluding bulk sales) was “unsustainable”.

Press Gazette understands that responding to a question at the meeting, Mullins admitted that the cuts were a way of “managing decline” at the print products.

He is also understood to have said that the potential closure of the print edition could be hastened if last week’s decision to increase the cover price for The Independent and Independent on Sunday by 20p resulted in a drop in sales. The Independent now costs £1.40 a day during the week, £1.80 on Saturdays and £2.20 on Sundays.

Blackhurst confirmed today to Press Gazette that the company’s print contract was due for renewal in 2015, but he said that it had “no plan to close the paper”.

Referring to the “unsustainable” comment, he said that was the case only without cost cuts “but if those cuts come through then it’s highly likely we will be sustainable".

The meeting came as a notice of a strike ballot went out to staff  yesterday afternoon following last week’s announcement of 27 compulsory editorial redundancies.

Blackhurst has previously urged staff not to take industrial action and has said The Independent is in the same position as the rest of the industry in facing up to dwindling print revenue.

“The fact is that we are in a declining print market and are relying increasingly on digital,” he said today. “We hope that the paper will continue printing long past 2015.”

The National Union of Journalists has called on staff to vote for industrial action, claiming that staff were not properly consulted on the move.

Most of the job losses are expected to hit reporters at the papers. Meanwhile, the company will create 20 new editorial roles focusing on its digital content.

In April, 15 journalists took voluntary redundancies as the daily and Sunday independent editorial teams were merged.

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