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Evening Standard to become a free newspaper

The new Russian owner of the London Evening Standard today stunned the media industry by announcing that the paper is to go completely free from 12 October.

The shock move by Alexander Lebedev is set to have a major impact on more local titles dedicated to individual boroughs across the capital.

It is expected that the 182-year-old London Evening Standard’s daily circulation will increase by more than double from 250,000 to 600,000.

The latest development comes just weeks after another freesheet, thelondonpaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, closed down.

It now places the Evening Standard, which costs 50p, in direct competition with London Lite which is owned by the Standard’s former parent company, the Daily Mail and General Trust.

Andrew Mullins, managing director of the Evening Standard, said: “Sustaining a paid-for afternoon newspaper had its challenges even before the freesheets were launched in 2006.

“There are so many competing distractions to potential readers, particularly with new technologies.

“Being a quality newspaper with large scale and reach should transform our commercial fortunes.”


Electric News Van (02/10/2009 11:16:54)
And a fond farewell to all paid for daily/evening newspapers..

Onlooker (02/10/2009 11:47:21)
This is a big gamble, especially as the ‘quality’ of ‘London’s quality paper’ has, in my opinion, fallen sharply since Veronica Wadley was ousted as editor and the paper was taken over by a Russian oligarch. I rarely buy it these days if I’m in town. Also, I stopped grabbing a copy of News International’s free London Paper long before it folded, mainly because a lot of its content was feeble, puerile or not to my taste (I tend to get irritated by gay male columnists wittering on about the wonders of being bugg***d by various ex-boyfriends, or straight male columnists letting me in on the ‘secret’ of their oafish dating techniques.)Even London Lite, previously streets ahead of the London Paper in content, is now becoming a tad boring -stuffed with so much sugary showbiz pap that my teeth are aching by the time I put it down.

Peter (02/10/2009 11:50:33)
DMGT revived the Evening News, where I was a sub, to force Robert Maxwell to close his rival London evening paper, which was targeted at the Standard. What weapon will DMGT now use to force Lebedev to close the Standard which is now competing with London Lite? Life gets complicated, doesn’t it?

happyjack (02/10/2009 12:00:20)
No surprise there. I was in London for a few days recently and by mid-evening the Standard sellers were giving the paper away free and they had bundles to get rid of.

Hacker (02/10/2009 13:53:09)
Hasbn’t giving away free copies proved to be a disaster for the manchester evening news? In any case the only thing keeping some papers going in the advertising decline has been cover price. No cover price no…paper?

FAST WOMAN (02/10/2009 14:52:11)
Happyjack’s right. I’m not sure many Standard readers will notice a difference. My nearest W London petrol station has been giving away a Standard if you buy so much a 45p milk.

Outside Observer (02/10/2009 15:11:42)
Everybody is lining up to knock this decision but maybe, just maybe, it will work. It’s pretty huge as developments in the regional press go but it might knock some of the snobby, pretentious stuffing out of the people that work there…….which is never a bad thing, eh!!!!

Barnaby Page (02/10/2009 15:21:25)
Mullins’ point is an interesting one, though. The Standard always had a rather poor market penetration (circulation as % of population) compared with some other big-city evening papers, even before the Net and the frees. It could be that grabbing a much larger circulation this way will make up for the lack of cover-price revenue. I would also think there’s some scope for using a basic free Standard as a means of luring in current non-readers and then converting them to a premium paid-for Standard of some sort, e.g. a weekend edition with supplements.

Interested Observer (02/10/2009 17:02:17)
One thing that seems rather odd is how Rothermere sold the Standard for £1 but the contract clearly did not prevent the new owner from directly competing with DMGT’s free London Lite. DMGT were either badly advised or perhaps this was the plan from the outset. Either way if they get this right the Standard could well end up being the only London wide title. DMGT still have 24% of the Standard so I wonder if the next story will be that London Lite is closing and DMGT have increased their stake in the free Standard.