London Newspapers

17/10/2009
Associated Newspapers has just announced that the London Lite will shortly be closing. This has surely been inevitable since the Evening Standard went free a week or so ago.
Clearly as well the journalists mentioned in the The Guardian’s report, there are also an awful lot of part-time distributors losing their jobs, as well associated roles.
I have mixed feelings on this, as I think the paper was absolutely dreadful and an utter waste of space. Culturally, we won’t be missing anything that a dozen entertainment websites (or “proper” tabloids) can’t do much better. Indeed, let’s face it: these papers only need to exist in physical form while we don’t have mobile internet on the underground.
But nobody wants to see people losing their jobs – they won’t all be able to get jobs at Best Buy.
So what are Londoners left with? The Evening Standard, which is apparently giving out 600,000 copies every evening. Except that I don’t think it’s got its distribution at the refined point that The London Paper and London Lite had achieved.
In W1 where I work, I usually can’t get a copy at Oxford Circus by 6pm with all the distributors having closed their stands and left for the evening. Such is the footfall there, the papers have all been snapped up. Note that I can easily pick up a London Lite at that time, and indeed I can carry on getting one until at least 7pm and often later.
My route home gives me no further opportunity to collect a copy, and so more often than not I simply no longer see the paper. Even the mainline rail stations aren’t that well served. At 8pm this evening there wasn’t a Standard to be had in Kings Cross. Yet the recent Standard marketing technique was to sell the paper through until about 11pm at a discounted price. I’ve always previously been able to get a copy at the station at that time, and potential new readers drawn in by the cut-price deal who work late, are now left in the lurch. And beyond mainline stations, there are numerous stations at junctions where overground and underground meet without commuters leaving the ticketed platform areas.
Of course, once I reach my suburban destination, I have no opportunity. The local newsagent doesn’t carry it – only a very distant supermarket – the kind of place you tend to visit once a week at most.
Now it’s still early days, and perhaps the West End will be better served, but the biggest issue facing the Standard right now is that some of those people who loyally paid their 50p daily can no longer buy a copy. Yes – it’s available online – but actually they need a mobile friendly downloadable version that lets me read it offline on my phone, netbook or laptop. The current version requires an internet connection. Even a simple PDF would be fine.
FInally – that photo at the top is curious. WH Smith – at least at Kings Cross – lets you pick up a free copy as long as you buy something else in store!