Archant London’s Bexley Times is to go part free and part paid-for in a bid to reach a wider audience in a “difficult market”.
The Times, whose most recent ABC figure was 3,408, will now be incorporated into the free Bexley Express (69,481).
The Times, one of the Southeast’s oldest weekly newspapers, will go on sale for 50p in newsagents, as well as being delivered to 70,000 homes in and around the Bexley district and parts of Eltham and Greenwich.
In February, sister title the Bromley Times went part free, part paid-for as an experiment. The company said that due to its success the Bexley paper is to follow suit.
Editorial director Richard Thompson explained: “North Kent is a particularly difficult newspaper market competing against the News Shopper [Newsquest] and the Kent Messenger [KM Group].
“The paid-for Bromley Times couldn’t compete on a level playing field and our distribution now matches theirs. Due to its success we are now doing it in Bexley, which is the same type of market.” Also published in Bexley are free titles the Bexley News Shopper and the Bexley KM Extra, which each distribute around 70,000.
The team focusing on the new title includes deputy editor Sarah McLeod,
sub-editor Sara Case, news editor Kate Mead, reporters Emma Durdle and Lisa
Jarvis, sports editor Stuart Henderson and sports reporters Neil McKeown and
Melody Ryall, group editor at Kentish Times Newspapers, a division of Archant London, oversees the Bexley Times.
There will be no redundancies as a result of the move.
Thompson said that going free will have no detrimental effect on editorial quality.
He said: “It’s just a method of delivery.
It’s a slightly old-fashioned way of thinking to equate free with poor quality.
“You can make your free as good as a paid-for, you can turn your paid-for free with exactly the same product. That perception is rooted in history, but I think it’s changing slowly.” Since managing director Enzo Testa joined the division, Archant has converted a number of badly performing titles — many of which compete in crowded markets — into free/paid-for hybrid.