The Independent has refreshed its commercial offering with a suite of new tools, including one that handles first-party data audience matching.
It has also revealed plans to scale up commercial opportunities across its Independent TV channel, ecommerce and a new content partnership division, Ignite.
The newsbrand, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary, has committed to becoming a net zero carbon operation by 2030, and launched a petitions platform as it positions itself as a campaigning voice.
It has commissioned research, by Ipsos Mori, that shows Independent readers are more politically active, sustainably active and likely to purchase greener goods and services compared with readers from other quality newsbrands.
The announcements come on the back of impressive results.
The Independent has grown its profit for the past four years to reach £2.7m in FY 2020. It also reported 100 million unique visitors each month for that fiscal year while its revenues have increased by 12% to £30.3m. Its advertising revenue was up 14% and reader revenues increased 40% year on year.
Campaign understands FY21 revenue is predicted to increase by more than 30% and the company exceeded its FY20 revenue mark in Q3.
Although monthly unique visitors have now dropped this year to 96 million – a decline mirrored elsewhere as the Covid news bump subsides – chief digital revenue officer Andy Morley told Campaign the The Independent is in rude health commercially.
“I think we always felt very strongly that The Independent was somewhat of a sleeping giant. We're not a sleeping giant any more. We're just a giant,” he said.
Morley said one of the reasons The Independent has grown at a time most newspaper titles have struggled was the decision five years ago to move to a digital-only format as well as a “conscious uncoupling” of its sales team from that of its stablemate the Evening Standard.
“Print businesses have had a really tough 18 months because of the pandemic but we're a digital only business,” he said. “So we've actually – although it hasn't been a cakewalk by any means – had an incredible couple of years' worth of growth.”
Morley added that the appointment of Oliver Wheatley from an ESI group role to trading director at The Independent has also made a difference.
The Independent's future success is predicated on growing new business lines, such as its ecommerce offering, Indy Best, its move into video and TV, with Independent TV, which will produce more longer-form content, and Ignite.
“There is massive innovation and investment around ecommerce, which is going to be important. But almost as important and strategically – probably the thing that gets [managing director Christian Broughton] and I most excited, is what we're doing around independent TV,” Morley added.
“We see our opportunity from being a print publisher into a digital publisher into potentially even a broadcaster as something that is really within our reach.”
For advertisers, The Independent’s "audience match" offering promises to combine brands' and the Indy’s first-party data, fully anonymised, to target readers with ads that are relevant, serving ads programmatically.
The newsbrand is launching a pilot scheme under which it will partner five brands to test out and optimise its audience-match solution.
Once an advertiser’s first-party data is taken on board, The Independent said it will be able to target clients’ previous and current consumers “with 100% accuracy while they are on our site”.
“We have also partnered with a specialist in intent data to help you target B2B audiences who are actively searching for products or services,” the newsbrand states.
The Independent is evolving beyond a traditional newspaper and digital publisher while betting on advertisers embracing its investment in audience targeting.
How brands receive this remains to be seen, but the ethos of the Indy is clear, according to Morley: “We're a change maker, we make the change happen.”