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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's best-selling newspaper, El Pais, may end its print edition and become primarily an online outlet, its editor-in-chief said on Friday - a global trend among national newspapers under pressure from the Internet.
The daily, which gained a reputation as the newspaper of democratic Spain after the death of dictator Francisco Franco, has reported a steady decline in readership since the country's economic crisis erupted in 2008.
The possibility of one of the world's most influential Hispanic newspapers stopping the presses comes after Britain's Independent disappeared from newsstands in March, when its owner took the newspaper online only.
"The step from paper to digital is just one part and is not even the biggest of the many steps that newspapers will have to take until we find our true space in the future," Antonio Cano, the El Pais editor-in-chief, told staff in a open letter.
Cano assured the staff El Pais was committed to publishing a print edition "for as long as possible," but he also said it would be working to build a digital medium that could better respond to the demands of readers.
"We can already assume that the habit of buying a newspaper at a news stand is now the thing of a minority," Cano said. "The majority of people, in particular youngsters, look for their information on a range of different devices and they consume it in a different way."
Like many other Spanish newspapers, El Pais, founded in 1976, ran into debt troubles when advertising revenues plummeted during the economic crisis.
El Pais's circulation has steadily fallen, shrinking by 15 percent last year to around 220,000 copies. However, its online business has been growing, with unique online users rising 15.3 percent last year to a monthly average of 13.5 million.
Reporting by Robert Hetz; Writing by Jesús Aguado; Edited by Angus Berwick, Larry King