Geordie Greig, editor of the London Evening Standard, was our guest at a Power Lunch in Westminster this week.
He outlined the brave new business model at the Standard, which used to charge 50p but is now given away free on London's streets and at commuter stations. I don't think any newspaper makes money these days – most have found that advertising revenue has collapsed during the recession – but the new strategy has cut losses and greatly increased the circulation (and hence the attractiveness to advertisers) to 600,000 and rising, so the Standard hopes to be in profit within three years' time. And, of course, the Standard has seen off two other free papers, The London Paper (which Murdoch pulled the plug on last month) and London Lite (which closed last week).
The Standard is indeed an interesting model in these changing times. It is the latest example of what my colleague Dr Madsen Pirie has dubbed the 'free economy' where product is delivered to people free – think of all those radio stations, free magazines, advertising matches, and DVDs that come with the Sunday papers – but is paid for by advertising or other support further upstream. Many of these free offerings are of course of rather poor quality. Greig's mantra, however is 'quality, but free' and he hopes to maintain the mix that has kept the Standard going, against the competition, for many decades.