Observers express fears for Evening Standard

The London Evening Standard can only survive as a free newspaper if it maintains its position as a quality product with a decent level of investment in editorial, say industry experts.

The newspaper, recently bought by Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev from Associated Newspapers, is to go free from 12 October. The publisher plans to distribute more than 600,000 copies a day.

The announcement follows the decision of rival publisher News International to axe its free afternoon title, thelondonpaper.

Observers say that the Evening Standard will incur heavy costs by raising its print run and turning to a free distribution model. To attract advertising revenues, it will need to remain positioned as a quality product and invest in journalism to create a point of difference with rival freesheet London Lite, which is owned by Associated Newspapers.

One senior newspaper executive says: “If the Standard goes against being editorially-led it will be another ‘also ran’ with London Lite.”

Gabrielle Rossetti, media manager at Arena BLM, says: “Given the cost implications, it remains to be seen how the Standard will continue to invest in quality journalism.

“There is also the question over whether quality journalists would prefer to write for a free or a paidfor paper. Undoubtedly the content will change as the free market has grown up on the content that we see in the likes of London Lite.

“This will be the most important question for the Standard in the coming weeks and will ultimately be a huge factor in whether it is successful.”

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