Guardian moots cheap sister title to fend off freesheets

The Guardian is considering launching a cheaper sister title in a bid to boost sales in metropolitan areas and counter the rise of rival publishers’ free newspapers.

The newspaper is testing two tabloid-sized titles across a series of focus groups, and a launch could come as early as next year.

It is understood that The Guardian is intending the new title to be youth-oriented, with a news look similar to freesheets such as The Metro. Sources also reveal The Guardian is garnering focus group feedback on two tabloid-sized options.

One of these is understood to be a paid-for title priced at 35p, half the price of The Guardian.

Advertisers and media buyers have yet to be approached over the proposition, but the latter have voiced dismay that The Guardian would depart from its core market.

One media buyer says: “I’d be surprised if it went through with this. I don’t think The Guardian’s price is a barrier to entry.

“The free newspaper market is saturated so it would be difficult to see it competing against established titles.”

But there has been long-term speculation that The Guardian would launch a sister title, though the publisher says it is too early to say whether it will take the product to market.

The paper’s circulation has fallen this year, despite it running promotions to offset the decline that is affecting all newspapers.

The Guardian’s headline circulation figure for February this year was 364,491 copies, a year-on-year drop of over 18,000 copies.

The rise of freesheets in London has hit paid-for titles, with The London Evening Standard, for instance, suffering a severe drop in circulation.

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