Roger Alton, the former editor of The Observer, will on Thursday be named editor of The Independent in a management reshuffle aimed at ending years of losses at Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s flagship newspaper.
Independent News & Media is promoting Simon Kellner, editor for the past 10 years, to managing director and editor-in-chief of the daily and Sunday titles, and has tasked him with making commercial and editorial departments work more closely together.
“Our only safe harbour is to make the paper profitable, and until we do that we can’t rest,” Mr Kellner told the Financial Times.
The news comes as Sir Anthony’s grip on INM is being challenged by Denis O’Brien, an Irish billionaire who has accumulated a 22 per cent share in INM and has raised questions about its performance.
The group has also appointed Daryl Fielding as commercial director. Ms Fielding, a managing partner of Ogilvy & Mather who has worked on campaigns for Dove and the Labour party, would bring a strong brand management background, Mr Kellner said.
Research into The Independent’s brand had persuaded it to begin printing 5,000 copies in New York each day, he revealed. It would target “expats and an affluent, ABC1 American audience who want a more intelligent read”, he said.
The new strategy will also herald a new approach to advertisers, Mr Kellner said. “Our opportunity is not to sell the quantity of Independent readers but to sell the quality of Independent readers,” he added, describing its readership as young, affluent and technology-savvy.
The Independent’s circulation fell by 5.6 per cent in the six months to February, when it averaged 242,679, but remains above the level at which it stood five years ago when it swapped its broadsheet design for a tabloid format.
The Independent, which may be redesigned after moving to colour presses in September, is looking at “cleverer ways to market the paper”, said Ivan Fallon, chief executive of INM (UK). Giveaways of CDs and DVDs – dubbed the crack cocaine of the newspaper industry – were “increasingly a waste of money”, he added.
However, INM had “not even considered” making the newspaper a freesheet in some areas, Mr Fallon said, despite speculation among some media buyers. Pricing was more likely to increase, he hinted, saying: “The £1 ($2) newspaper is not that far away now.”
Mr Alton said: “People love The Independent as a paper. I’d like to get more people to buy it and to get the people who love it to buy it more often.”