The latest ABC figures show that more than 800,000 free afternoon newspapers a day are now flooding the streets of London, with dramatic effects on the Evening Standard’s already downward circulation path.
News International’s thelondonpaper circulated marginally more copies in December — an average of 410,898 — compared with Associated Newspapers’ London Lite on 400,692.
In a random survey on the streets of London, Press Gazette found that it is the easy access and easy reading which explains why people are apparently switching from paid-for to free.
“I used to buy the Evening Standard but I don’t bother any more,” said Dave, a systems analyst. “I did prefer the Standard, but not enough to warrant going over and handing over money, compared to picking up two free ones.”
Many admitted that it is simply easier to be handed a paper or to find one on the seat next to them. While some used to read the Standard, they were not loyal enough to keep reading it.
Doug, 28, a press officer, said: “I just like the fact that there’s always one there to pick up. I hate reading them but I always do. I very rarely read the Evening Standard. For the kind of stuff I want to read on the tube, I’d rather read London Lite or thelondonpaper.”
The editorial content on offer does have some influence. Shereen, 25, a journalist, said: “It’s easily accessible information. Sometimes you just want the news quickly and not too deep. You just want to know what’s going on and you get that.”
The mix of news, columns, features and reviews is appealing to the commuter, with many of them emphasising the “simple” content.
Some readers admitted reading the freedbies even though they preferred the Evening Standard. “I’ve always liked the Standard,” says Robbie, 25, a chef. “The Lite especially is too much like Heat — too much celebrity. But I guess that’s what most people want, it’s for Heat readers. The Standard is more of a paper. But if it’s a free paper, you’re going to read it.”