The Evening Standard has summoned media agency press directors to a meeting to unveil its free London newspaper, likely to be called ESLite.
Speculation suggests that the publisher could have the newspaper on the streets as early as next week, with copies being handed out by Evening Standard street vendors.
Associated Newspapers also publishes Metro, the free morning newspaper distributed on the London Underground. Mike Anderson, managing director of the Evening Standard, was instrumental in establishing Metro and pushing through ad rate increases on the publication. He declines to comment on the new venture.
The Evening Standard has been working on a free newspaper for some time as a defensive measure against a free afternoon London newspaper threatened by Express Newspapers.
Express Newspapers is still holding fire as it awaits a decision from the Office of Fair Trading as to whether Metro’s distribution contract with London Underground is exclusive.
ESLite is expected to be available at lunchtime, once the first edition of the Evening Standard has been published.
The Evening Standard has suffered a steep circulation decline and Associated Newspapers will also be hoping that ESLite can be used as a sampler to attract younger readers. The newspaper’s average net circulation for the six months from May to October was down 7.81 per cent year on year to 368,493.
One media buyer says the profile of readers would be very different for a free lunchtime paper than it is for Metro, which sells itself to advertisers on the strength of providing sophisticated urban commuters.