Associated Newspapers has announced that the London Lite – part of its free division which also includes Metro – has entered a period of review which could place 36 jobs at risk.
The announcement follows the closure of rival evening free-sheet TheLondonPaper. The possible closure places the whole concept of the free newspapers in the balance as Steve Auckland, Managing Director of Associated Newspapers admitted concerns of ‘commercial viability’ – the same reason TheLondonPaper closed its doors.
The London Lite, however, does not seem to have suffered any decline in popularity. It distributes 400,000 copies a day and appears to be widely liked – the mix of short, light news, gossip and sports, along with popular sections such as ‘Get if off our text’ have proved popular with commuters who want to switch off from a hard news agenda and unwind on the journey home from work. The short and snappy approach lends itself very well to those with a short journey as you can read most if it in about 20 minutes.
This is quite different from the Evening Standard where one may struggle to read more than a couple of articles in 20 minutes. It is simply a different concept and although great if you have an hour to spare, it is hard to get through it in a short period of time. It is also far more opinionated, the stories are far more drawn-out and analytical and there is a stronger focus on hard news such as politics and finance. While I’m not criticising the paper itself, it simply appeals to a very different demographic than the London Lite.
While those at the Evening Standard may indeed be rubbing their hands together at the thought of a monopoly on London evening newspapers, it is worth pointing out that if two evening free-sheets have already proved to not be financially viable, how will the Evening Standard fair?
Perhaps more interestingly from a consumer perspective, how will it move forward? Will it adapt itself in order to satisfy those of a more ‘London Lite’ persuasion and risk alienating its main readership or, due to its monopoly, will it bank on Lite readers switching to its harder news agenda because there is really no alternative?
I believe red-top newspapers such as The Sun or The Mirror could stand to benefit from this. The Sun in particular has recently dropped its price to a paltry 20p and those in search of a softer news agenda may be happy to actually pay for a newspaper again. That said, these are obviously morning papers which go to press earlier, so they are not as up-to-date in the evenings.
The possible closure of the London Lite, as you can probably see, appears to pose more questions than answers. One thing is sure though: with TheLondonPaper gone and The London Lite looking like it will go the same way, opportunities for PR people with London-based stores are certainly going to become more limited.