As Newspaper Execs Discuss Putting Up Online Paywalls, London Evening Standard Paper Edition Goes Free

from the which-way-do-you-go? dept

We keep hearing newspaper industry execs claim that the news can’t be free, and they absolutely have to put up paywalls to start charging for content online. And yet… not everyone appears to agree. Lots of folks are sending in the news today that the London Evening Standard has decided to go from a fee-based newspaper to a freesheet. Starting in a week or so, Londoners will be able to pick up a free copy of the newspaper, rather than paying for it. They’re preparing to more than double the printed circulation, assuming that many more people will be interested in the free paper (and, thus, greatly boosting their ad inventory). Alexander Lebedev, who only recently bought a controlling stake in the paper has the right idea:

“I am confident that more than doubling the London Evening Standard’s circulation and maintaining its quality journalism is what is best for London. An essential fabric of a free and democratic society is high quality journalism. It acts as a deterrent against corruption and is a way to highlight what is beneficial and worth celebrating. I want to invest in newspapers in general for this purpose and in the London Evening Standard in particular. The Standard has been producing exceptional journalism since 1827 and that is not going to change under my ownership. The London Evening Standard is the first leading quality newspaper to go free and I am sure others will follow.”

Again, this highlights the silliness of trying to set up a paywall. All that does is open up an opportunity for someone else to go free, and to soak up all of the readership.

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Companies: london evening standard

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Comments on “As Newspaper Execs Discuss Putting Up Online Paywalls, London Evening Standard Paper Edition Goes Free”

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Chargone (profile) says:

interesting… we have free newspapers here. have had for a long time, they’re printed by the same people who sell the ones you have to pay for, and i think they may own them, too.

over time, the ads to news ratio has gone up, the city paper got merged with several regional papers, and then the regional elements got largely jettisoned… all that good stuff.

on the other hand, what they Do cover and give space to, is still usually very informative and well done, they still do community news bits, and so on.

i remember when the thing came three times a week and was about half as thick as the one you pay for, [even the weekend editions], had a local section they switched depending on where you were, and had a lot less full page ads and such. the main one now seems to be at least half advertising, most of the reporting isn’t actually news exactly, and their choice of what to headline can be outright bizarre sometimes, only come out twice a week, much smaller.

seems less prone to noticeable bias, too.

it’s really hard to figure out what i think of the free papers… so many different ways to measure, and some produce ‘it’s awesome!’ and others ‘it sucks!’

and i’ve completely forgotten my point.

also, i don’t live in London 😀

Tim (profile) says:

Re: Re:

London has had a morning freesheet in the Metro (from Associated Newspapers – Daily Mail) since 1999, and then evening freesheets in London Lite (from the same stable as the Metro) and The London Paper (from Murdoch’s News International – The Times, The Sun, etc).

Murdoch dropped The London Paper a couple of weeks ago, but The Evening Standard going free should be quite a jump in journalistic standards from the other freesheets available in London. I would rarely pay for it, but I’ll certainly pick it up over London Lite now it’s gone free.

Anonymous Coward says:

I worked briefly at amNY, one of the free daily newspapers in New York City. They seemed to be doing ok.

The paper I currently work at is in one of two test areas that is going behind a paywall as a trial run for Media News Group. (Nobody who works at the paper got a say in this and we all think it’s a stupid idea.) We compete with another paper in the city, but thankfully they’re owned by the same people.

I’d think that the best idea would be to have one paper go behind a paywall and the other stick to the free model and see which one works better. But no, we’re both going behind the paywall, so at least we’re screwed together.

David Gerard (profile) says:

Except the ES is horrible

It would help if the Evening Standard wasn’t completely loathsome shit. They’ve spent much of this year doing promos where they give it away free outside tube stations, or include a chocolate bar or an umbrella on rainy days with the 50p. People refuse to take it! They really, really hate the wretched thing. They would actually rather take the London Lite, because that’s full of bright colourful pictures of celebrities and requires no thought from work-addled office workers on their train ride home.

My blog post:

NilesSiegel (profile) says:

The Village Voice

The Village Voice in New York went free several years ago. It appears to me that the paper is carrying more advertising than they ever did at $1.00 an issue. If the newspaper publishing want’s to kill itself like the major record companies did, look for more unemployed newspaper people and fewer papers to read. The way I see it, give a little, get a lot.

ethorad says:

ES competition

I would argue that if people are picking up the celebrity gossip papers instead of the ES, then that doesn’t mean the ES is bad. Nobody thinks that Heat’s circulation figures reflects on the broadsheets. They are serving different portions of the market – those who want news and those who want gossip. Nothing is inherently wrong with either approach.

For me, I would read the ES but it’s a hassle having to stop and get my wallet out for 50p. I’ll most certainly be picking up a copy now it’s free.

Another aspect of a free paper is it seems people are more likely to leave it behind on the tube. If you buy a paper and take it home, then it’ll get 1 or 2 sets of eyeballs before being binned. Leaving it on the tube gives it the potential for many more sets of eyeballs for one paper. Of course this does mean more cleaning on the tube, but (generally) the papers are left on the seat or behind next to the window so aren’t (too) untidy.

Rosedale (profile) says:


I still say Metro is a fine example at least here in Boston. I’d say that 1 out of ever 3 people riding the T in the morning has a metro in hand. I read it on my way home from work so the number could be higher. They have people stand outside to hand it to you as you walk into the stations. It is the only physical news paper I read, and one of very few “news papers” that I read religiously. A lot of it has to do with their local news information that I can’t get easily anywhere else, but it is also just a good news paper. And they do it all *for free*. They have my business. And I keep coming back. In fact if I miss a day I feel out of the loop.

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