London’s Evening Standard is now a free newspaper. Did you notice? If you haven’t yet, just wait – the capital will soon be inundated with 600,000 free copies of it a day.
Just three weeks ago, one of the city’s two evening freesheets, The London Paper, folded. For a minute, it looked like its main competition, the London Lite, would have the evening commuter readership all to itself, until the Standard’s surprise announcement: it would drop its 50p cover price and become a free paper.
It is, no doubt, a risky move. But top management at the Evening Standard is confident that going free is the best way to combat the paper’s steady decline in circulation. It’s more than doubling the number of copies available in London to 600,000 and hopes to compensate for the loss of cover price revenues with increased advertising revenues.
Now the story gets even more interesting because the Evening Standard has been going out of its way to reassure Londoners that going free doesn’t mean its editorial standards will slide. In fact, it promises to ‘maintain its quality journalism’.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for quality journalism. But after a long, hard day at the office, the last thing I want to do is spend my tube journey home reading a 60 page ‘quality’ newspaper. I want a quick, mindless, ‘Lite’ news fix instead – all the day’s headlines, a little celebrity gossip, brain teaser puzzles and my horoscope all condensed into 20 pages (with ink that doesn’t come off on your hands)!
How do you like your evening commute – ‘quality’ or ‘lite’?