Magazine article Marketing

Evening Standard Eyes Free Circulation Boost

Magazine article Marketing

Evening Standard Eyes Free Circulation Boost

Article excerpt

The Evening Standard will become a free newspaper next week, after more than 150 years as a paid-for evening title.

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, who bought a 75.1% stake in the title early this year for a nominal fee of pounds 1, said the move would more than double the loss-making newspaper's circulation in London from 236,000 to 600,000 daily.

Gabrielle Rossetti, media manager at media agency Arena BLM, said she believes that a free quality newspaper model is 'great news' for London-centric advertisers.

'There is clearly an audience in London to consume the product,' she added. 'There is a difference in the paid-for and free consumers, but this will take the Standard to a wider, younger audience.'

The Standard's decision swiftly follows the closure of News International's evening freesheet thelondonpaper after three years. Its performance failed to meet expectations, and it recorded a pre-tax loss of pounds 12.9m in the year to 29 June 2008, on turnover of pounds 14.1m.

Nonetheless, Katie Vanneck-Smith, managing director customer direct, News International, said the Evening Standard would not necessarily go the same way.

'The Evening Standard is a more established brand,' she added. 'We made the decision to shut thelondonpaper as we couldn't get the business model to stack up in the current commercial climate. The Evening Standard has been struggling on circulation, and this is its chance to get it out there more.'

The Standard's circulation has slumped from more than 400,000 copies in 2003 to 236,000 this year. In May, the paper distributed 650,000 free copies to promote its relaunch.

Its imminent switch to a freesheet has increased speculation that Associated Newspapers will close its free title London Lite.

Associated, which retains a 24.9% stake in the Evening Standard, is tight-lipped about the title's future, but Rossetti is less so. …

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