Posted on December 18, 2013 in Archive

Lloyd’s List shuts down print production – don’t panic!


After 279 years, Lloyd’s List will be shutting down it’s paper production and switching over to a digital-only format very soon. As one of the world’s longest continuously published newspapers, this received a fair amount of media attention. Considering the fact that this publication started off as a notice on a billboard, I think this signals a return to the Ye Olde equivalent of the more immediate way of communication – digital.

Lloyd’s List is a daily (though it was originally published weekly) journal with shipping news that originated in London, 1734. It has possibly been posted earlier than this, but became a regular publication in 1734, hence the date. The name comes from the owner of the list, Edward Lloyd, who pinned a pamphlet/list up on his London coffee shop wall. In addition to shipping information around London and international ports, it has since been expanded to include news on offshore energy, global trade and law, and marine insurance. So definitely a specialised field – and after December 20 you won’t be able to find it on newspaper.

After surveying some of their subscribers back in June, it was discovered that only 25 of their readers primarily or exclusively used the print edition. That’s less than 2 percent. Considering that Lloyd’s List charges £1,800 for a single subscription to each of their paying subscribers, it isn’t really surprising to learn that they want to make sure they’re doing what their subscribers want. Paying in premium means that most users want their information available immediately through the company’s website, tablet and smartphone applications.

‘The List’, as it’s known in the industry, doesn’t see this as a downgrade though. In fact, they are downright confident in the future of the publication. Editor Richard Meade told Press Gazette that not a single job would be cut in the downgrade. “We are the oldest newspaper in the world… This is part of securing our future for the next 300 years.”

“The overwhelming majority of our customers choose the capabilities of digital over print… The digital approach offers new avenues and opportunities to innovate an up-to-the-minute service that offers in-depth news and information on every aspect of shipping as well as unrivalled market intelligence and data provision which can be tailored to suit our readers’ needs.”

Liquid State - Lloyd's List

An early edition of Lloyd’s List shows that the typesetters of the 18th century pulled all the stops on the first word only.

Lloyd’s List isn’t the only publication to go all digital in recent times – titles like The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Christian Science Monitor, Newsweek and US News & World Report, to name a few, have all abandoned print. Other newspapers have popped up the (warning: sarcasm ahead) ever-popular paywall to get readers to return to the print format.

More than anything, this move to digital has proved to be of symbolic significance to the publishing and newspaper community, rather than historical. To some (not everyone!), the fact that such a long-running journal is switching to digital-only must be a sign that print is falling prey to the charms of digital. Even their readers, through their usage, are telling them that digital is the most relevant and immediate way to communicate with their market, especially when they are a daily edition. Waiting for daily newspapers to come by post means that recipients are already behind by the time they receive the paper.

But hey, it might not be all bad – maybe this move to digital could provide new opportunities for the newspaper. If they put a bit of effort in, perhaps Lloyd’s List could digitise their back catalogue and provide a rich history of shipping and nautical information for history and boat enthusiasts. It’s not like they can claim that they don’t have enough material to make it worthwhile.