Friday, October 02, 2009

"Very courageous, Mr Lebedev"

I remember the days when there were two evening newspapers in London. I think I'm right in saying that the Evening News, unlike the Evening Standard, published on a Saturday which meant that if you were leaving the West End after six on that day you would get the football results printed in a stop-press column on the front. The News disappeared years ago and now, in a move that nobody appears to have seen coming, Alexander Lebedev has announced that the Evening Standard is going to be free. Of all the times to make this move, this is by far the oddest. Not even the most cockeyed optimist thinks the advertising recession is going to stop any time soon and there are those who think that we may have seen the end of the kind of advertising that traditionally financed newspapers and magazines. It appears that Lebedev is saying goodbye to circulation revenue of £15m a year in the hope that by doubling his circulation he can make it up in advertising. That's as good a working definition of an optimist as I've seen in a long while.


  1. Only a maniac or a billionaire who's happy to lose millions a year would do this. Let's see. The news websites give everything away free and can't make it pay with advertising, despite the distribution costs being low and the quality of offering high. ITV gives everything away free and can't make it pay with advertising despite it having been a workable model for decades. The London Paper gave everything away free but couldn't make it pay with advertising despite Murdoch's deep pockets and unmatchable media know-how.

    So what we'll do is increase the distribution costs by printing more copies of the Standard, remove the cover price revenue, and hope for the best. Does Lebedev care about losing money in return for having London's only newspaper, because he's going to lose a lot? Only he knows that. What the rest of us know is that business-wise, this might just possibly not work.

  2. You didn't have to be in the West End to get the Evening News on a Saturday. I remember going to our corner shop every Saturday after Grandstand to buy a copy.

  3. Anonymous4:58 am

    The facts / possibilities

    Lebedev bought the Evening Standard for a quid.

    Lebedev is said to be worth £1.6 billion.

    Newspapers and magazines have no future (except The WSJ and The Economist).

    Lebedev is now engaging in an experiment that will either create a new publishing paradigm or will cost him what he can make back in a few weeks of conservative wealth management.

    Lebedev is not an optimist. He is a very, very wealthy man and he has been well advised.

    Destroy the competition. Then build an empire.

  4. Thank you. It is a risk, but we believe that this strategy will be successful

  5. Paul K10:22 am

    I think this has EVERY chance of success. Metro, a free newspaper in the mornings, is doing okay. Shortlist, a free weekly men's magazine, is doing so well that it is now launching a free weekly women's magazine. The demise of The London Paper, and the likely demise of the London Lite, is entirely due to their competition, and their poor journalistic standards. If the Standard maintains the quality of its journalism, and becomes the only London evening (free) newspaper (and uses its brand wisely in addition online, it has every chance of success.