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New Statesman relaunches free site with added appeal

LONDON - New Statesman, the left-of-centre political weekly, has relaunched its website, making it free to access for the first time with exclusive online content, an array of blogs and community.

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The revamped site will update content every week to coincide with the print publication, as the magazine builds on the critical and sales success of the New Statesman magazine relaunch earlier this year.

The site is being overseen by Ben Davies, the online editor who was brought in four months ago to head up this launch. Davies was previously at the BBC for five years as a political reporter and hopes the exclusive features and comment on the site will encourage readers to see it as a separate entity to the print edition.

Davies said that the older version of New Statesman online had around 60,000 visits a week, and he is hoping to  lift those figures, with much of the traffic coming from overseas.

Davies said: "We want to stress the firm focus on activism. We are currently building a forum for people interested in such things as the environment and politics to come to our site and swap tips on campaigning."

The foundations of this are already in evidence by columns from comedian and campaigner Mark Thomas.

The website will also include regular blogs from Green Party co-leader Sian Berry and tetraplegic Radio 2 producer Victoria Brignell in her controversial "Crip's Column". Former Playboy model turned Liberal Democrat councillor Marina Pepper provides savvy answers to weekly problems in her Agony Aunt guise.

The magazine is currently on a 25-year subscription high, with sales standing at around 30,000 since the print relaunch. Magazine bosses realised that to capitalise on this, the website was the next stage in the revamp process. Access to site's content is now free, a change inspired by taking a look around at the abundance of other free news sites. However, the free-to-access change is one that the New Statesman will be keeping under review. 

The New Statesman first went online in November 1998 and included comment and vote facilities that allowed the publication to reach a global readership. At launch, it was a subscriber service and included a full downloadable edition of the print version, which is still available.

The magazine was the brainchild of Beatrice and Sydney Webb, who founded the publication in 1913, with the aim of infiltrating the dominating classes with socialist ideals. It is now owned by former Paymaster General and millionaire Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson.

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