Saturday, October 3, 2009

London newspaper switch to free model

     Here's an imaginative idea for helping newspapers survive, make them free.  For several years, I've been suggesting that one business plan for mid-sized newspapers like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would be to offer total market coverage in a one-section newspaper with other sections available for a fee. This would serve the advertisers who need wider markets than the very limited markets available online.

      Now there's a model to follow. Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev is turning the London Evening Standard into a free newspaper, increasing its circulation from 250,000 to 600,000 papers a day. Yes, it's going to lose a lot of circulation money, but it expects to more than make up for it with increased advertising.

      The model I've proposed would continue to pick up its subscription revenue because most current subscribers would continue to subscribe, but vastly increase its advertising revenue by offering total market coverage in its free section.  Certainly adding coverage would increase costs, but I suspect that -- especially if the free papers strongly promoted offerings available behind pay windows, both online and in print -- you'd see a much stronger revenue model emerge.

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