Standard’s cat is thrown among the media pigeons

In the fluctuating fortunes of the MSM, this one is a real biggy. The London Evening Standard is going freesheet. Now owned by a Russian mogul who’s given it three years, the metro afternoon paper with national pretensions is dropping its 50p cover price and going for free. The shock has registered internationally where the Standard’s fortunes will be watched keenly. Yet the shift is not quite as big as the headline suggests. About half its 250,000 and falling circulation is free already. Its former free stable mate London Lite is expected to close and a Murdoch free rival has already folded. Distribution will increase to 600,000 to soak up the expected rise in advertising demand as recession recedes. As national rivals like the Murdoch heavies may be on the brink of charging for on line content, the Standard strategy veers in an intriguingly different direction. The Standard deserves to succeed. After a few faltering years, it’s become a much better read under new editor Geordie Greig and deputy Sarah Sands. But the London paper is a one –off with a captive AB commuting audience and it’s example is unlikely to be followed by regional evenings. Probably!

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London