A newspaper that understands social networks: The Independent and i Paper’s use of Twitter

The Independent was founded in 1986 and has since featured much stimulating and radical content between its pages. It has been criticised as being a ‘viewspaper’, as opposed to a newspaper, due to the fact that the paper includes a lot of opinion, comment and reviews. Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, has said of its content:

“The emphasis on views not news means the reporting is rather thin, and it loses impact on the front page the more you do that.” (source)

The Independent logo

The Independent’s sister paper, The i, was launched in October 2010 for people with limited time to read a whole newspaper, such as commuters, students etc. Although The Independent has seen circulation figures fall dramatically to just over 80,000 in 2012 (a -54% change on 2011), The i’s circulation has boosted to over 300,000. These sales figures aren’t replicated in the two newspaper’s Twitter follower count; although The i has a strong following of 45,000, The Independent has almost 160,000 followers.

But however much the two newspapers might be lacking in circulation figures compared to the big tabloids, they make up for in their social media. In what could be seen as an unusual move in the two flagship Twitter accounts, @Independent and @theipaper, they regularly retweet the journalists who write for them. For example, on January 9, 2013) The i retweeted links to articles tweeted by Grace Dent and Owen Jones, while The Independent retweeted Steve Richards, Simon Read and Andy McSmith, among others. By encouraging some of their older journalists to join Twitter, engage with their followers and tweet links, both newspapers can generate maximum exposure and traffic to their websites.

The Independent and The i's use of Twitter

Figures from the NRS confirmed in September 2012 that despite having a low circulation figure, The Independent was the fourth most read newspaper with 5.32 million print and online readers. And when figures for The i were added, the total number of readers rose to 7.28 million. The explanation of these strong online figures must be down to the two papers’ utilisation of Twitter and other social media. With high-profile jouirnalists-cum-celebrities writing for it, people are automatically interested in what they have to say. It is rare to see a national daily newspaper retweeting their own journalists. The Times requently does it, but papers such as The Guardian and Daily Mail refrain from doing it.

The Independent also has an app on Facebook, something which boosts its online readership. The app allows readers to browse the newspaper’s website freely, while logged in, so they can ‘recommend’ articles or ‘agree’/’disagree’ with content, which their Facebook friends will then be able to see. This sort of online sharing generates lots of traffic, as detailed on The Independent’s website when the app was first launched:

“Many Independent readers already experience their news through a social lens. Since integrating social plugins in early 2010, referrals from Facebook have increased by 430 percent, making Facebook the second biggest driver of traffic to the website. And in a recent month people shared or liked content on Independent.co.uk 136,000 times.” (source)

Although The Independent’s newspaper circulation may be in serious and worrying decline, its use of social media and Twitter are keeping it afloat. However, with no paywall or way to make money on the website except advertising, who knows how long the newspaper will be able to keep going for.

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