Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: Setting a New Standard

Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Andrews on Media: Setting a New Standard

Article excerpt

The Evening Standard's successful rebirth as a freesheet hinges on quality editorial and distribution.

When the Evening Standard announced plans to become a freesheet, News Corporation's chief, James Murdoch, was most likely sitting in his walled world of Wapping wondering why anyone would take such a gamble.

He had tried the London freesheet model and failed, announcing just weeks earlier that thelondonpaper would close. The publication had reported a pre-tax loss of pounds 12.91m in the year to 29 June 2008 on turnover of pounds 14.1m.

Murdoch Jr would have had every right to be puzzled. The evening freesheet business model as it currently stands is not exactly lucrative.

I was sceptical when I heard Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev's latest news, as I sat on a train with the daily freesheet Metro in hand. After all, the buzzword these days is 'pay walls'. Just ask Rupert Murdoch, Sir Martin Sorrell and most of the world's key media gurus.

Sacrificing pounds 12m of cover price revenue and increasing costs by more than doubling circulation initially seems a recipe for disaster Yet having sat back, spoken to industry experts and extracted more gossip on what the Lebedev camp was thinking, it begins to make more sense.

The switch is a gamble, but it is a risk worth taking when one considers that, in August, just 107,680 copies of the Evening Standard a day were being sold at full price. Such miserable circulation revenues are worth sacrificing for the additional ad revenues that increasing circulation to 600,000-plus will bring. Ad prices can feasibly be increased by 50% on this rise in circulation.

As long as the newspaper keeps its quality and Lebedev does not slash scores of jobs, the free Standard stands a chance. Job cuts are reportedly intended, but it is crucial that Lebedev does not lose sight of his original agenda for the 182-year-old title - to create an upmarket evening read focused on London events, arts and culture - if he wants to create an attractive proposition for advertisers.

However, the Standard's best chance of success is centred on selecting a new distribution model. The evening freesheet should expand its focus beyond the commuter. Househusbands and housewives in affluent suburbs must also be targeted, as they often make family buying decisions and are a key target for advertisers.

The Evening Standard is rumoured to be in talks with retailers, such as WH Smith, to distribute the title in the high streets of the posher London suburbs, but there is a wealth of other possible distribution channels. …

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