London Evening Standard to become a free newspaper

The London Evening Standard is to become a free newspaper, its publishers have said.

Publishers say they will more than double the circulation from 250,000 to more than 600,000 each day when it axes its 50p cover price on October 12.

The move follows the increased pressure from free newspapers in the city in the past few years, although one of these, thelondonpaper, was closed last month.

Andrew Mullins, managing director of the Evening Standard, said: "Sustaining a paid-for afternoon newspaper had its challenges even before the freesheets were launched in 2006.

"There are so many competing distractions to potential readers, particularly with new technologies.

"Being a quality newspaper with large scale and reach should transform our commercial fortunes."

Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, who bought the paper from the publisher of the Daily Mail, said he thought other newspapers may follow the lead.

Mr Lebedev, chairman of Evening Standard Ltd, said: "I am confident that more than doubling the London Evening Standard's circulation and maintaining its quality journalism is what London deserves.

"An essential fabric of a free and democratic society is high- quality journalism. It acts as a deterrent against corruption and is a way to highlight what is beneficial and worth celebrating.

"I want to invest in newspapers in general for this purpose and in the London Evening Standard in particular. The Standard has been producing exceptional journalism since 1827 and that is not going to change under my ownership.

"The London Evening Standard is the first leading quality newspaper to go free and I am sure others will follow."

Editor Geordie Greig said it was a "historic moment" as owners made the paper available to "more Londoners than ever before".

He added: "The Standard has an exciting and secure future with this new, pioneering strategy of more than doubling our distribution.

"I also want the paper to continue being a cheerleader for London, the greatest city in the world. We will celebrate where we can but also criticise and expose those who are not doing what is best for London and Londoners."

Executive director Evgeny Lebedev said: "I have always wanted the Standard to be far-reaching, bringing news to as many people as possible in the capital with the highest quality reporting and influential comment pieces.

"I especially want to ensure that my family underwrites the continuation of its broad and brilliant coverage of the arts, where London dominates the world with theatre, live performances and the visual arts.

"It is key to my family's thinking to have a great newspaper, celebratory of London but also fearless in its desire to report the news, business and sport brought to as many people as possible."