Written by Media

Will the Standard Survive

In today’s Media Guardian, Alan Ruddock ponders whether the venerable London Evening Standard will survive the onslaught that has been News International’s London Paper and Associated’s very own London Lite.
It has been a year since the two free papers launched, and neither of them are yet profitable. The Standard has unsurprisingly taken something of a hit with distributors practically fighting over who’s newspaper you take away free. There have been plenty of promotions and free gifts – I’ve gained iTunes vouchers, a natty little umbrella, an emergency phone charger and a handful of free audiobooks (in terrible quality incidentally). There have also been a selection of free paperbacks, and a variety of snacks – all given away by street vendors on payment of 50p for the Standard.
But the overwhelming problem is that the Standard is simply not a very good paper. It’s nowhere near as bad as either the London Paper or London Lite which both leave me reeling; I really don’t care at all what Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse was up to last night. Please don’t tell me that and other non-news like it. If I wanted that, I’d buy Heat or one of those sordid downmarket equivalents. I care not a jot about what the latest off-the-rails American starlet has been up to, or how many hours in prison she had to spend afterwards.
I care more about whether the papers are being recycled and why London Transport doesn’t put massive signs at the top and bottom of escalators telling commuters not to leave their papers there in the morning. How many jammed escalators are being caused by trapped freesheets?
The biggest impediment to me buying the Standard is not the alternatives, but the dire nature of the paper itself. There’s no proper news in it. London news is minimal, with the editor seemingly wanting to turn it into The Daily Mail. But that’s not what Londoners want – if it was, well, we can already buy the Mail if we have to. I want information relevant to me, and include both national and international news. Features are fine, as long as they’re upmarket ones. Of course with the web at work, we’ve all got a good idea about what’s happening in the world before we leave the office, but with a good set of journalists, the paper could add depth of coverage and background information. Instead we get more of what’s already in the freesheets, and as a consequence, I don’t buy the paper (unless it has a gift that’s seemingly worth more than the 50p I’m being charged – but that’s got to be unsustainable hasn’t it?).
Whilst on the subject of freesheets, I should mention that I rarely if ever read Metro, although I do believe it to be generally a cut above the others. The reasons I don’t read it are twofold: firstly, I prefer to read either a book or a proper newspaper on the way to work, and secondly, it’s not distributed at my station. Actually, a couple of weeks ago, a telltale Metro dump bin was suddenly in place at my station, but was empty. A couple of weeks on, and I’ve still not seen any sign of papers. Now it may well be that they’re all taken by 7.30am, which I’d find surprising, but it’s a curious state of affairs.
And finally there’s also Sport, the sports weekly that’s doing fairly well by all accounts. I quite like it myself – except that I can rarely get it. The distribution at Oxford Circus seems to be a single person, despite there being upwards of seven exits to the station. Wrong exit? No paper.