London freesheets - what do commuters really think?
The London freesheet war between Associated and News International is getting more intense. The two rivals are attacking each other over their distribution methods and circulation claims. Here you can see a short video reporting what consumers really think about the freesheets as we outline the issues and track the Capital newspaper debate.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations is investigating allegations regarding the dumping of 2,900 copies of thelondonpaper, after its bitter rival Associated's Evening Standard released video evidence, writes Nikki Sandison.
Thelondonpaper responded with an advertising campaign, which stated that it had sacked the three distributors and thanked the Evening Standard for its evidence. It then went on to attack the Evening Standard, highlighting its fall in circulation figures and claiming Associated Newspapers had launched a "dirty tricks campaign". The previous week Westminster Council threatened to ban distribution of freesheets in the city centre if News International, which owns thelondonpaper and Associated Newspapers, which owns London Lite, did not substantially contribute to its £500,000 recycling plan.
These are the latest development in the freesheet war, which began in autumn last year with the launch of afternoon freesheets, thelondonpaper and London Lite. They have added a further 800,000 free papers a day to Metro and City AM. News International launched thelondonpaper in September 2006 as the first newspaper to be published in direct competition with the Evening Standard since 1987. The week before it was published, Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Evening Standard, rebranded its existing free lunchtime newspaper Standard Lite to London Lite and changed the publishing time to include the evening rush hour.
Despite the environmental issues, the freesheets have been welcomed by many as a way of reaching new audiences. Media Week reported that over half of Metro readers aged 15 to 34 do not read another national daily newspaper and more than half its estimated 1.9 million readers fall into this age group. The Guardian is considering a smaller formatted edition, which will probably be free, in a bid to attract younger readers. Marketing reported on the inaugural circulations for the afternoon freesheets in October 2006, which showed that 74% of thelondonpaper's readers were ABC1 and 63% of them under 35, a difficult generation to target. However the ABCs also revealed that the freesheets were damaging the Evening Standard, which lost 24,000 readers in September 2006, a fall of 7.6% on its August circulation.
As the papers are free it is the advertising revenues that will determine the titles' success. This places huge demand on the advertising economy with some claiming that the freesheets have had a negative impact on revenues at London radio stations and local press. While some believe that freesheets devalue the market and that the editorial is weak, aswell as raising recycling issues; others see them as the answer to the industry's problems as many young readers have been lost to television and the internet.
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