Friday, 2 October 2009

The Decline of the Evening Standard

So it has come to this. London's sorriest "quality newspaper" is to become a freebie:

Editor Geordie Grieg told today's Channel Four News:

"Many things are free and make money - we hope for example that Channel 4 is one of them.

"We are going to remain a quality newspaper and that is what will make us attractive to advertisers."

Now Channel Four is free and it does makes money.

But it's lunchtime news bulletins? Not so much.

"Channel 4 is axing its lunchtime news bulletin and More4 News as part of a cost-cutting move that will lead to up to 20 job losses."

Whichever way you look at it, free news equals more job cuts and more news cuts.

The Evening Standard plans to survive, if it can, by sacking it's vendors, increasing adverts, and slipping in more 'unmarked advertorials' (see this gem called out by Private Eye)

In short they plan to survive by cutting costs, cutting quality, but increasing circulation

And they plan to do so after years of mega losses from London's freesheets.

For a man who bought the paper for just one pound last year (but who has since invested millions) it's a brave, possibly reckless, possibly idiotic move.

It also doesn't begin to solve what are long term, and chronic problems for the paper.

In recent months, the paper has tried hard to restore itself in our affections, but while the smell of sock has gone, the smell of out of touch London lingers on.

There are still good journalists at the Evening Standard

But sadly over the years they've been sidelined, by personal vendetta, and by the courting of a very small section of London society.

Bit by bit ordinary Londoners have deserted them, and now Grieg plans to win us back, by literally forcing the paper into our hands.

Whether this will allow them to survive financially remains to be seen, but whether it will ever be a truly "quality London paper" is sadly in greater doubt.

The "I'm free" and "Anything else?" images are by the ever-brilliant Beau Bo D'or. Head over to his place for more.


Keith said...

What is the smell of "out of touch London"?

AdamB said...

I'm not sure Keith, but I believe it's available over here.

Anonymous said...

Crushed lavender and rosehips isn't it?

Keith said...

I can't say I read the paper very often. Last time I read it I had only been trying to buy a Bounty bar and they gave me a copy for free.

AdamB said...

More from Darryl on all this

Also I've just heard that Grieg will be appearing on the Politics Show this Sunday.

Let's hope Tim Donovan gets more out of him than Channel 4 managed.

karl said...

It's a poor show for the street vendors. How will its readership (them outside London) be able to get a copy? Newsagents won't touch it now, surely?

AdamB said...

Good point Karl.

The BBC just interviewed a load of ES vendors and none of them had been told about the decision. Shocking stuff really.

Karl said...

Yeah, I saw that. It's very sad for them.

Mark Littlewood said...

It is not such a great surprise.

For most publishers, newsstand sales are a very small part of their revenue. We had a great discussion about this earlier in the week at our Future of Publishing Discussion Dinner. Thought you might be interested in some of the thoughts of other publishers.

AdamB said...

Mark, I see you've been posting this comment and link elsewhere.

As you're such a believer in advertising paying for free content, would you be so kind as to send me a cheque for the one you've placed on my blog.

How's £50 sound?

Quietzapple said...

Ironic if the Lyin' Standard follows it sformer competitors the News and the left leaning Star into oblivion.

As ever it is money - advertising - which dictates. And those who spend the cash tend to favour right wing views.

Snowflakes views on the future of such media are interesting:

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

A once great paper falls apart at the seams...

Michael Foot is spinning in his grave.

North Briton Hunter said...

Er Michael Foot is not spinning in his grave. He will be spinning in his lovely, book lined, house in Hampstead, still going aged 96, wild haired, stick waving and delightfully batty as ever.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Soon as I typed it I realised the old genius was still around.

My bad.

Bunny Smedley said...

I last saw Michael Foot at a talk given by Francis Wheen, c. 2004. Foot was heckling from the front row, egged on by Bob Marshall-Andrews and Mark Seddon - the whole setup mad as a basket of kittens, and nearly as delightful. It was almost, although clearly not quite, enough to make me love the old Left - cute as can be as long as it's just shouting to itself upstairs in a pub where it can't do anyone any harm.

Anyway, back on topic, what I don't understand about making the Evening Standard a freebie is this - it's all very well to increase circulation, hoping to boost advertising revenue, but what happens when advertisers realise that (a) people may take a free paper thrust into their hands, but does that mean they actually read any of it? And also (b) isn't advertising mostly migrating to the internet now anyway?

JVC said...

Actually I am not particularly a believer in advertising being the answer, more about there being multiple ways of making money from content. It will be interesting to see how the industry develops over the next few years but I would expect to see publishers becoming more focused on things like affiliate marketing, member clubs (Times+ as an example) than on advertising or newsstand revenue.

Many apologies if you had a problem with the link, it seemed relevant so I thought I would post it. I have only been blogging for 6 months or so and not really seriously so if I hope I have not transgressed any boundaries.

Happy to share the revenue that I made from it. 50% of £0 = £0. Where should I send the cheque? Happy to buy you a pint in lieu.