Time Out freesheet a “milestone” say rivals

Free sheet publishers say Time Out London’s plan to become a free magazine is a “milestone” for the publishing sector but have warned that it will need to be backed by a focus on attracting younger readers if it is to attract advertisers.

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The listings title, which launched in 1968, is set to join the growing number of free titles in the capital this autumn as part of its owner Time Out Group’s three-year strategy to reinvigorate its business model.

Observers say the move highlights the changing nature of the publishing business, with most paid-for titles seeing advertising revenues fall as readers look online for reviews and news as well as the increased competition from free magazines such as Scout London.

Harry Owen, commercial director at free newspaper City AM, says the move is a “milestone” for the publishing sector but adds that the redesigned magazine will need to a identify a sub-audience of younger professionals if it is to be of any commercial value to advertisers.

He adds: “Advertisers are no longer questioning the free distribution model. As long as you’ve a strong distribution strategy and can prove that you can reach a mass-market audience with a straight-forward proposition the the advertisers will follow.

“The interesting thing will be where Time Out take their broader content and move away form listings and try and reach out further.”

Mike Soutar, chief executive of Stylist owner Shortlist Media, says the publisher will need to think about widening its distribution model past London if it’s going to be competitive in the long-term.

He adds: “When media buyers are assessing the choices that they make we’re being assessed against other consumer magazines, which have nationwide distribution.”

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