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!

  • “captive AB commuting audience”

    That “captive” is the key. When I worked in London I was nowhere near the “AB” demographic, but travelling back “home” everyday from Ldn Brdge to Colliers Wood I needed something to keep me going for at least 45 minutes and the Standard of old did the job, there were simply no alternatives.

    Now the night before I would print several articles to read in the morning…during my coffee break there would be a couple more printed up to read on the way home; in other words I could afford to be much more selective now, no more worrying about how Milwall or Brentwood were doing.

    If the Standard is to survive, it needs to keep its artistic, cultural and (local) sporting edge, the news has been outsourced.

  • For many of us, the Standard has been a free-sheet for some time.

    After an indefinite moment in mid-evening, the chuggers start giving it away. Spend any time in the pub, have a meal in the West End, you have one thrust upon you. Other times, whenever it rains, there seems to be a promotion: buy a Standard, get an umbrella – while stocks last. They have a short life expectancy, natch: but some folks I know already have a collection. Ditto with promotional drinks, or whatever. Did I not even see a freebie hoodie (with off-putting logo) on offer once?

    More to the point, it’s become less stridently Tory, less Boris-for-godhead. At times it’s almost readable.

    Now I remember when London had three evening papers. My Dad brought home The Star, which started me on crosswords. It died in 1960; but — of course — had TP O’Connor as founding editor. There’s my statutory Irish link for this post.