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August 29, 2023

Christian Broughton promoted to CEO as Independent announces more US expansion

Current CEO Zach Leonard will concentrate on growing the US business in a new role.

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Independent has appointed Christian Broughton, its managing director and former editor, as its next chief executive as it seeks to double revenues with a new phase of global expansion.

Broughton will succeed Zach Leonard, who is moving from the CEO role to grow the US business in the new roles of global chief operating officer and president, North America.

The news outlet said that with Broughton and Leonard in their new roles, alongside ex-Daily Mail editor Geordie Greig as editor-in-chief, it had established a “leadership team for a fresh phase of global expansion“.

Chairman John Paton said: “Christian and Zach have delivered exceptional results for The Independent over the years, and this major move now sets us on a pathway to double revenues. There is a huge future ahead for the sleeping giant of global digital news media.”

The Independent has been in profit every year since it went digital-only in 2016. Last year it grew revenue by 12% to £46.3m – with further growth expected this year – and for the first time advertising was no longer the majority revenue source as a result of a diversification strategy.

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The Independent plans to use its continually-increasing revenue to invest more in the US and grow its headcount there from around 60 in June to 75 by the end of the year across editorial, commercial, content partnerships, marketing and operations.

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The Independent said a third of its workforce is outside the UK. In July it was the 20th largest English language news website in the world, according to Press Gazette’s monthly ranking using Similarweb data, with 121.6 million visits worldwide, up 33% year-on-year.

It was also the 36th biggest news website in the US with 31.5 million visits – growth of 69% year-on-year. In 2022 some 37% of The Independent’s revenues came from outside the UK.

Broughton has worked at The Independent since 2005 and his previous roles have included features editor, sports editor, assistant editor and website editor before the newspaper closed. He became editor in 2016 when the brand went fully digital, working alongside Leonard, a role he kept until 2020 when he changed to the role of managing director in which he has led in areas such as the launch of Independent TV and ex-commerce.

Broughton said: “It is a great honour to be taking on this role for the next chapter of The Independent’s remarkable growth story – expanding the business, opening up new horizons for the brand, and empowering our journalism.”

Leonard first joined The Independent and sister title the Evening Standard as managing director of digital in 2010 and led The Independent’s transformation when the newspaper closed in 2016. He became chief executive of Independent Digital News and Media in November 2019.

Leonard has already been spending time in the US to act on the brand’s global ambitions, Paton told Press Gazette in June. The editorial team had increased by 50% in a year to around 45 people in New York, Washington DC and LA at that point.

Paton told Press Gazette The Independent worked in the US because “people there value independence” and set a goal of overtaking Mail Online on that side of the Atlantic, saying this was “within our grasp”.

Leonard said: “I look forward to developing The Independent brand, business, audience and influence in North America, at a time where Independent values – particularly trust and objectivity – are desperately needed. Our unique digital transformation and growth strategies are starting to take hold in the region, and will flourish with more dedicated senior leadership on the ground. I am thrilled also to hand the CEO reins to such a talented successor in Christian upon whom I have depended for more than a decade, and who lives and breathes The Independent.”

The Independent is one of several British news outlets investing in the US, with The Sun, Mirror, Express and BBC among those joining longer-established sites like Mail Online across the Atlantic.

Zach Leonard, CEO of The Independent
Zach Leonard. Picture: The Independent

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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