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Media Release: London Lite to publish last edition on Friday

November 9th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Media releases, Newspapers

Associated Newspapers’ freesheet, the London Lite, will publish its last edition on Friday 13 November, according to a release.

The decision follows a consultation with staff.

Full release at this link…

In August, News International, the UK newspaper division of News Corporation announced that it would close thelondonpaper, its free evening newspaper launched in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard, in which Associated still has a minority share, switched from paid-for to free last month.

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London Lite could close following consultation

October 27th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

Associated Newspapers today announced that it is entering a period of consultation over the future of the London Lite, which could see the free evening publication close. Thirty-six London Lite employees will be consulted before a final decision is made, a statement said.

“The latest development in the London afternoon free newspaper space dictates that we look again at the future of London Lite. Despite reaching a large audience with an excellent editorial format, we are concerned about the commercial viability in this highly competitive area,” said Steve Auckland, managing director, Associated Newspapers Free Division.

In August, News International, the UK newspaper division of News Corporation announced that it would close thelondonpaper, its free evening newspaper launched in 2006.

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MediaGuardian: Associated backs Standard move; what now for London Lite?

October 5th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Associated Newspapers, which stayed as a minority shareholder in the Evening Standard after its acquisition by Alexander Lebedev in February, has financially backed the title’s decision to go free from next Monday.

Standard editor Geordie Greig has also denied the move will mean redundancies for existing employees.

Full story at this link…

Elsewhere, MediaGuardian’s Stephen Brook considers the future of fellow Associated freesheet the London Lite in the wake of the Standard’s announcement.

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Jon Bernstein: Free is just another cover price

August 27th, 2009 | 10 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Newspapers

Apocryphal perhaps, but the story has it that Rupert Murdoch always wanted to charge for thelondonpaper.

When News International’s big boss was shown a dummy copy prior to the September 2006 launch, he apparently declared that the paper would easily justify a 10p cover price.

James Seddon, a member of thelondonpaper launch team, who recounts the tale on this blog, concludes:

“If he didn’t get ‘free’ then, it’s no surprise he dropped the paper when times were tough.”

Given Murdoch’s current fixation with finding a way to generate revenue online, it would be tempting not only to conflate thelondonpaper decision with a general trend towards paid-for content, but also to assume the paper’s demise sounds the death knell for freesheets.

So let’s be clear about a few things:

  • thelondonpaper didn’t fail because it was free
  • it didn’t lose £12.9 million in a year because it was free
  • a 10p cover charge would not have saved it
  • its free-to-view website isn’t closing because it’s a threat to Rupert Murdoch’s paid-for plans.

Oh, and:

  • the freesheet isn’t dead

All newspapers, and the bulk of broadcast media around the world, adopt an ad-funded business model.

In some cases advertising subsidises the cost of production and the consumer pays a competitive price.

In other cases advertising covers those costs completely and the consumer gets to read, watch or listen gratis.

In both cases the advertiser is paying for the eyeballs and the reader, viewer or listener gets content for a fraction (or none) of the real running costs of the media business.

Rather than two distinct models, there’s a continuous line that runs from commercial radio, trade publications and freesheets to subscription satellite channels, consumer magazines and national newspapers.

Whether the content is free or has a nominal price attached is something of a moot point.

As web strategist Jeff Sonderman argued earlier this summer “newspaper folk haven’t actually charged for content since the 1830s.”

It was during that decade that subscribers stopped bearing the full cost of putting the paper together. Typically, says Sonderman, newspaper prices fell from six cents to one cent.

At a stroke, access to newspapers was no longer limited to those who could afford the luxury. He notes:

“For about 180 years, the retail price of a newspaper has never reflected the total cost of assembling and producing it. Any paper that tried to charge such a price (6x more) would lose circulation and be undercut by correctly priced competing papers.”

Murdoch’s 10p cover charge wouldn’t have saved thelondonpaper. It certainly wouldn’t have paid for production costs and circulation would not have justified a 500,000 print run.

So, thelondonpaper isn’t closing because the model was flawed, but because News International either couldn’t make it work in the current economic climate or was unwilling to give a paper, still in its infancy, the time it needed to become commercially viable.

Or, as David Prosser neatly put it in last Friday’s Independent:

“The surprise with thelondonpaper is that it has survived this long, especially as the title was launched for no real commercial reason other than to get up the noses of Daily Mail & General Trust, owner of Metro and London Lite.”

This is not the end of the freesheet even if it feels that way right now.

Certainly, London Lite could fold. After all, it too was launched for tactical reasons – a spoiler in a spiralling tit-for-tat between DMGT and News International.

Having effectively achieved those ends, its owners may conclude there’s little point in London Lite overstaying its welcome and queering the pitch for its stablemates.

But if London Lite does go, commuters beware – you’ll still be playing dodge the Metro/City AM/Shortcuts/Sport vendor for some time yet.

After all, free is just another cover price.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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#FollowJourn: @chrisbeanland/Chris Beanland, freelance journalist

June 26th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Chris Beanland

Who? Journalist writing about music, the media, travel, food/bars/clubs, and culture

What? Former Metro arts editor. Now freelancing for London Lite, The Express, orange.co.uk/music, Virgin Trains’ Hotline Magazine, Wizz Air Magazine, Routes News Magazine, a few music websites

Where? @chrisbeanland or www.facebook.com/chrisbeanland

Contact? chris.beanland [at] gmail.com

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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MediaWeek: Londonpaper quits NRS, after survey showed it had fewer readers than its rival

November 18th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

National Readership Survey data released last week showed thelondonpaper is behind its rival London Lite in reader numbers, despite the fact that thelondonpaper distributes more copies. Now, the Londonpaper is ready to leave the NRS. MediaWeek reports that Ian Clark, managing director of thelondonpaper, has lobbied the NRS to change its methodology.

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The people behind the papers – London’s freesheet vendors

July 16th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Ever wondered what kind of person could survive standing for hours on end trying to communicate with hurrying commuters? Current filmmaker Joe Oppenheimer speaks to the street vendors of London’s freesheets:

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