Standard given out free in bid to beat newspaper industry blues

Circulation increased to 600,000 copies through distribution deals with stores
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The Independent Online

The newspaper industry is watching the streets of London closely as the Evening Standard yesterday became the first quality newspaper to be distributed for free.

Its owner, Alexander Lebedev, said earlier this month: "The Standard has been producing exceptional journalism since 1827 and this is not going to change under my ownership," adding, "I'm sure others will follow".

The Standard decided to drop its 50p cover price and more than double circulation from 250,000 copies to 600,000 in the hope that the lift in advertising revenue would more than make up for the loss of revenue.

As well as distributing the newspaper on the capital's streets, the paper has secured deals with stores including Asda, J Sainsbury, Tesco and WH Smith to display the paper.

A spokeswoman for The Standard said that while there was a "small commercial element to the deals, the stores are keen to display the newspaper as it encourages footfall".

The Standard has also secured a deal with Canary Wharf to distribute the paper on site, has doubled distribution to the Houses of Parliament and was "still in the processes of negotiating more deals, which should be announced in the coming weeks," she said. It is negotiating to be displayed in company foyers, although the spokeswoman declined to confirm which ones.

Mr Lebedev took control of The Standard in February, buying 75.1 per cent from the Daily Mail and General Trust, which retains the rest.

Mr Lebedev said the move to drop the cover price and double the circulation while "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," Mr Lebedev added.

The rise of freesheets, including Metro and City AM, as well as news sites on the internet have been blamed for contributing to the decline of paid-for newspapers. The Standard's circulation fell to 127,000 in July, a loss of more than 130,000 readers in a year.

The paper's editor, Geordie Greig, said: "This is an historic moment and great opportunity for The London Evening Standard. Its owners will be funding the distribution of over 600,000 copies of the newspaper, making it available to more Londoners than ever before.

The Standard is stepping into the space left by thelondonpaper, which closed three weeks ago. The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, lost £12.9m in the year to June 2008. Question marks also hang over the future of its rival London Lite, owned by DMGT.

New versus old: Online is gaining

*Britons have not abandoned traditional media with more than 80 per cent consuming TV, radio and newspaper content in the past month, but online is catching up, according to a new survey.

KPMG commissioned YouGov for its first Media and Entertainment Barometer. It found 43 per cent preferred their media offline, with 24 per cent favouring the internet.

It found that new media was growing fast, but getting consumers to spend "remained challenging". Only 11 per cent said they spend anything on online media, with a further 11 per cent planning to start.

Traditional media is suffering, however, with YouGov finding that 28 per cent of respondents had cut spending on newspapers and magazines in favour of viewing the content for free online. Only 3 per cent thought they would return to pre-recession spending levels. David Elms, media partner at KPMG, said the barometer reflected the "structural shift in the media sector".