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The Evening Standard becomes a freesheet

BY Boon Koh
Published 2 October 2009

Evening Standard Stand In a big news for London commuters today, The Evening Standard has announced that it will be a free newspaper (a.k.a freesheet) from the 12th October. The owner, Alexander Lebedev, is confident that the move to free will more than double the current circulation of 250,000 copies a day to more than 600,000 copies a day.

This news comes only weeks after The London Paper, a free newspaper, was retired. At that time there was fierce competition between it and London Lite, which has some of the same owners as The Evening Standard and shared some of the content with. In fact, the London Lite was often a “summary” and more tabloid-ish version of The Evening Standard.

Although not announced, it is widely expected that the London Lite will be retired, as it makes no sense to have two competing free newspapers by the same company and with similar content.

How will this affect the Evening Standard sellers? Most likely they will be keeping their jobs and giving out the free newspapers from their existing stands. They currently already do this function anyways after 9pm in the evenings, when any leftover copies of the Evening Standard are handed out free to the public. But I can easily see them being replaced in the near future by the cheap, part-time, student labour that is being used to distribute the London Lite. In addition, another question is if the Evening Standard will be as widely distributed as before, now that it is free. Many smaller newsagents have stopped stocking The Evening Standard instore, but at the moment most Tescos and some other big convenience stores and supermarkets are still giving out the free Evening Standard.

There are also questions about the editorial quality and amount of content of the new free Evening Standard. There are many commuters in London who purposely buy the Evening Standard rather than take a free London Lite because of the more serious and higher quality content, and it remains to be seen if that will be maintained. If not, London will lose a valuable source of evening news.

Eros card holders should also be concerned about getting refunds for their pre-pay card balances, now that they will become redundant.

The Evening Standard free newspaper is available at a range of more than 500 retailers London-wide, including a selection of Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Morrisons, ASDA, and independent stores, as well as branches of WH Smith. In addition, there are over 300 distributors outside or near all mainline train stations and tube stations in London.