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.