'Standard' freesheet is an hour late for lunch

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The Independent Online

Central London got its first taste of a new free edition of the Evening Standard yesterday.

Central London got its first taste of a new free edition of the Evening Standard yesterday.

Standard Lite was given away from bright orange boxes next to the newspaper's vendors for a limited period in the centre of the capital - between 11.30am and 2.30pm, although the freesheet arrived about an hour late.

The 48-page edition - at least 20 pages shorter than the 40p Standard - presents news in bite-size chunks, in an attempt to boost flagging circulation and appeal to advertisers by attracting new readers, particularly young women. It also pre-empts the long-threatened plan of Richard Desmond, owner of the rival Express group, to launch a free competitor to the Standard.

Martin Clarke, the former editor the Daily Record and Ireland on Sunday who is overseeing the project, has repackaged Standard stories with a lighter, more celebrity-focused touch similar to the free morning title Metro, which is also published by Associated Newspapers. Lite does not include columnists, a business section or supplements.

Veronica Wadley, the editor of the Standard, said: "It's particularly designed for the lunchtime quick read and it complements the main paper, which is more substantial ... There is a market out there who aren't picking up a newspaper - the under-30s who perhaps get their news via the internet." Ms Wadley said the initial print run of 50,000 copies of Lite, which are taken off the stands at 2.30pm sharp so as not to "cannibalise" the final edition of the main newspaper, would be carefully monitored and could be increased at a later date. The paid-for title is heavily trailed in the free edition.

Mike Anderson, the Standard's managing director said: "There are 1.2 million people working within the Circle Line, of which 600,000 tend to leave their office for a break at lunchtime. The majority do not read a newspaper and we feel we can reach them with this new edition."

VIEWS ON VALUE

Bill Hagerty, editor, 'British Journalism Review'

Evening Standard journalists will be very concerned that Standard Lite is a precursor to the editorial future of the newspaper - frothy, feminine-biased and celebrity-driven - just the sort of giveaway fare that could well appeal to those who don't want to buy the Evening Standard.

How it can work as an inducement to buy the full-blown Evening Standard, I can't imagine. But it certainly will drive up the circulation figure, which will no doubt please Associated Newspapers and the advertisers.

Tim Burrowes, editor, 'Mediaweek'

It's very hard to find anyone who is really confident that it will work.

Advertisers value differently something that somebody has paid 40p to read and something they have had thrust at them.

But everybody was incredibly doubtful before Metro launched that it would succeed.

They have proved the doubters wrong once. It's a funny hybrid of Metro and the Evening Standard. I found it a chunkier read than I expected.

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