The fight of the free in Newspaperland

By    John Garner on  Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Summary: London is the place to be for free newspapers. Soon there will be three free newspapers for Londoners to choose from ! The Guardian's opening paragraph : Newspapers are dying, but no one can accuse them of going quietly. London is home to a "free frenzy" in Newspaperland. Next month there will be three free […]

London is the place to be for free newspapers. Soon there will be three free newspapers for Londoners to choose from !

The Guardian's opening paragraph :

Newspapers are dying, but no one can accuse them of going quietly.

London is home to a "free frenzy" in Newspaperland. Next month there will be three free newspapers for commuting Londoners. Metro will be joined by a free newspaper from Associated and another from Murdoch. The battle is novel since unlike previous ones that entailed 'price slashing', free means no price wars ! Paris already has several free newspapers (one of them is Metro) and now it is London's turn to have companies fight for the population's reading time. Studies have shown however, as in Paris, how free newspapers actually create new reading time, in that many new readers of free newspaper didn't read before. They didn't read articles nor the adjacent adverts !

What can be referred to as 'barriers of entry', not only the price but the distribution barriers have been taken away. On top of being free, if Paris based free newspapers are an example then they can even be handed to you or placed conveniently on your way to work ! What more can you ask for ?

I find this interesting for several reasons :
- Newspapers are complaining about declining number of readers yet the example below of the Guardian shows that you cannot read the article before registering : access barrier
- Several newspapers like the WallStreet Journal and some sections at the New York Times cost members money to read : financial barrier.
(This model seems sustainable specifically to the WSJ which is a very specific case but for how long ?)
- Access to the Internet will soon be far easier/convenient than finding the closest newsstand/newsagents both at work and from home : distribution/access barrier
- Like the Internet the future of newspapers seems far more linked to advertising than circulation revenue
- Barriers are also barriers to viewing the placed adverts

The specifics of the current fight between Murdoch and Associated is further complicated by the fact that each company also distributes traditional newspapers that people pay to read. Creating a good free newspaper can obviously not be allowed at the moment to put the circulation revenue of their other (paid) newspapers in jeopardy.

But as the Independent article explains the idea of getting people into the habit of reading is not bad including the other (paid) newspapers :

Jim Bilton says: "Free newspapers are the only way of getting to the younger, non-newspaper readers and introducing them to the reading habit."

The list of free newspapers in London will increase next month and as you can see at Free Daily Newspapers (below) there is also a 2 page A4 teaser from the Financial Times along with free newspapers in Manchester, Newcastle and Brighton in the UK.

Article refs.
- Roll up for a good, old-fashioned fight for the future (Guardian)
- Why should newspapers cost less money than a coffee? (Independent)
- Free Daily Newspapers

Article written by  John Garner

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