Friday, November 16, 2012

London 1 - London's free newspaper - a lasting trend?

London's free newspaper - My Savior during the mind-numbing commute. 

I have lived in London for over an year now, but surprisingly this is my first text post on the city. Since its my post first on London, I will make this a tribute to the London's ubiquitous free newspapers and magazine that make my awful commute to work, in packed trains and tubes, a little tolerable.

In 1999 Metro, UK's first free newspaper was launched. The trend continued when in 2004 another free newspaper Standard Lite (later called London Lite) was introduced. Two years later the London Paper, by Rupert Murdoch's News International was launched as evening paper. Both London Lite and London Paper went out of circulation in 2009.

However, the shift to free still continues now faster than ever. Recently Time Out magazine, a 45 year old listing magazine, in a hope to raise its circulation converted itself into a free magazine. Two magazines are already available for free since 2007 and 2009 one targeted at men and other at women. Is circulation of free papers the only way to win the readership of the London's smart phone juggling commuters who real time, customizable access to multitude of news sources. The model has proven successful so far for some of the players. The Evening Standard which made a successful transformation as a free newspaper in 2009 had upped its profit by Jun 2010 due to increased ad revenues from higher circulation. But it is not all success story. In 2009, London Paper went out of publication due to losses and 'downturn in ad revenues'. Recently another free newspaper City AM, which is London financial free sheet, showed signs of struggle as it suffered 95% slump in profits blaming it on rising costs of the newsprint. 

The question is whether the trend towards free newspapers sustainable over time? Besides profits, experts have also raised  concern about quality of journalism in such papers. There is an additional problem tonnes of waste generated by the free newspapers. In 2007, the London council,Westminster, threatened to ban the free newspapers given the huge waste problem. However, now the newspapers have deployed recycle bins close to the distribution points resolving the issue to a great extent. However, the question of quality and disposability of the news still stays.

I, on a personal note, appreciate the 10 minutes of preoccupation that the free papers provide. If you do too, here is a list of major free newspapers and magazines and a few tid-bits about them. 

Available to commuters in 50 UK cities available. The newspaper distributes around 1.3 million copies are distributed across the UK. It is the world's largest free newspaper and the third biggest newspaper in the UK. This paper can be picked from special racks installed at London stations and transportations hubs.

The Evening Standard became a free newspaper in October 2009 after 180 years in circulation. Before going free it was available for a 50p. The newspaper which was launched 1827 had a daily circulation of 250,000. But after it became free, 600,000 copies were in circulation with a reach of 1.4 million people. The newspaper would either be thrusted in your hand as you walk in or out of a station or you could pick it up at the racks used by Metro in the morning.

City AM - Handed out 212 stations, City AM is London's financial sheet. Usually distributed by vendors standing in front station gates and major transportation hubs, its current circulation rose to 130,000 however, its last profits as reported in October 2012 slumped by 95%.

Time Out - London's leading listing magazine launched in 1968, currently has a circulation of 55,000 copies. It became free in August 2012 expecting it to push up its circulation. 

Stylist - Launched in 2009, Stylist is a free weekly women's magazine available with fashion and beauty related content.

Shortlist - It is men's lifestyle magazine launched in 2007. Its circulation in June 2010 was a little over 510,000.

Besides there are other regional newspapers and magazines available in different parts of London. Check out this wiki link for the ones you could pick up.

Some of the information above is picked from the following articles:

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