Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Altruist Freesheets Will Hit Sales Soon

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Altruist Freesheets Will Hit Sales Soon

Article excerpt

As the great free London newspaper battle enters its second week both News International and Associated Newspapers should be praised for their philanthropy.

Readers are being handed a great deal, and advertisers have been offered a cut-price way of reaching a concentrated section of more than 1m Londoners - all thanks to the innate generosity of the media owners.

With the capital being carpeted with these free publications it is as if the clock has been turned back 15 years - the last time so many newspapers were in the hands of Londoners in the evening rush hour.

A quick trip on the Tube is enough to gladden the hearts of newspaper traditionalists everywhere; no internet threat to worry about here - for now, at least. It has been a very long time since one was able to board a Central Line carriage and see virtually everyone in it reading a newspaper.

A wholly unscientific survey suggests that the Evening Standard is hanging on to a handful of diehard paying customers, while Associated's London Lite girls seem to be doing a little better at getting their product out there than their counterparts at News International's thelondonpaper.

In theory, Associated's strategy can hardly be faulted. In the face of the Murdoch steamroller, it is flooding London with a free rival, while simultaneously trying to reposition the Standard as 'London's quality newspaper' with a cover price to match.

But the dangers are only too obvious. London Lite will cost too much to produce and the Standard will find it too difficult to jus- tify its 50p price difference. Just venture around the corner from the Standard's headquarters any evening and you will see a glum vendor outside High Street Kensington Tube station with little to do while London Lite giveaway girls work the crowd.

While Associated executives whistle optimistically and insist that the Standard's sales have not been hit, newsagents tend to take a more pragmatic, pessimistic view. If the effect has not been felt yet, it surely will soon. Ask the man selling the Standard at White City Tube and he warns that the frees have reached 'the Bush' already adding, in the sort of hushed tones normally reserved for the plague's arrival, that 'it can only be a matter of time ...'

It is also noticeable that the Standard is blurring the edges between its free and paid-for titles by using the copy and bylines of Standard journalists for the top stories in its Lite edition. …

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