Lloyd’s List, one of the oldest continuing print publications in the world, is to go digital only before the end of the year.

The Informa-owned maritime title will ditch its daily newspaper edition – unique in B2B media – on 20 December as part of a renewed focus on digital subscriptions and paid-for data products. The brand has already carved out a successful digital portfolio, featuring real-time shipping data and a feature-rich iPad app. (Release)

Editor Richard Meade said in the company’s press release: “Lloyd’s List first started in 1734 as a notice pinned to the wall of a coffee shop in London offering customers trusted shipping news and information. That aim has not changed, but the technology has and our customers are now accessing the industry’s most sophisticated intelligence source in any coffee shop, anywhere in the world 24 hours a day.”

Informa Business Information’s chief content officer Fotini Liontou told us: “Lloyds List will be a digital-only product in December. This is absolutely a response to the needs of our audience. We have based the decision on an extensive research project which showed a strong demand for digital content among our audience.”

The move will see the strengthening of Lloyd’s List Intelligence and a closer alignment between data products and editorial activities, in order to “more strongly link the journalism and analysis”, according Liontou.

This is a symbolic moment – the perhaps the oldest trade media title anywhere finally succubming to the inevitable move to digital media. It wasn’t taken lightly and was the result of much research. But what will the reaction be?

Fontini says the company “will carry the vast majority of our subscribers to the new digital services”.

It’s too soon to say what the reaction might be from commercial clients, but Liontou is clear that this has been the direction of travel for some time: “Over the years we have made it very clear that we are trying very hard to transition the revenues (away from print).

“We have been preparing ourselves for this for some time. We are far less reliant on print advertising than we were two years ago.”

Informa Business Information CEO Lindsey Roberts would rather see it not as the end, but a new beginning.

A question of time?

The eternal question remains for all print titles, especially in professional niches: when is the right time to make the shift to digital only? Too soon and you lose lucrative print revenue that funds innovation; too late and you’ve been disrupted by nimble startups with far smaller costs.So where does this decision sit on that scale?

“We didn’t just do this for personal reasons but because our audience is going in this direction,” says Liontou. “They are telling us that if they could get our content in just one format it would be digital.

“I think we just have to put our business in the right shape to make the transition… Philosophically everyone could have moved to digital a little bit sooner.”

A business shift

B2B media is shifting away from advertising and headfirst into subscriptions. This is what Informa Plc’s revenue revenue split looks like these days: subscriptions account for 60 percent of the total and 76 percent of the entire pie is now digital.

Informa H1 2013 revenue split division

So the Lloyds List decision to leave print behind is surprising only in that it didn’t come sooner. Informa is to welcome current board member Lord Carter as its new CEO on January 1 and this is no doubt a sign of things to come.

Informa claimed in July that its digital transition was “largely complete”. Is it now entirely complete?