When is a “free” newspaper not free? When it is the Standard

A piece of unvarnished opinion: the Evening Standard, since it was sold by the Daily Mail group to a former Russian spy, and changed editorship from Veronica Wadley to Geordie Greig, has improved, at least in its coverage of London affairs.

The old, Mail-like, agendas, the badgering of @Ken4London, seem to have slipped away.

A second piece of opinion: If you run a “London” evening newspaper, and you decide you are going to give it away free, then you should never, EVER, operate a two-tier system where outer London (ie. Croydon) newsagents or vendors are expected to charge even the most modest of amounts for that newspaper.

The newsagent near Inside Croydon Towers was outraged. After years of disappointment in late or non-delivery of the Standard to his shop in the afternoons, he cancelled his order altogether after a couple of days of being expected to charge 20p for a paper that is available free elsewhere in the same city.

Not least of his problems, he said, was that he saw no reason why he should be subjected to abuse for trying to take 20p for a product which is freely available elsewhere in the same city. You can see his point.

So now, if I am to have any chance of getting a Standard in Croydon now, it’s a trek up towards East Croydon.

Since the Standard went all John Inman in October last year, the newspaper vendor who had his little hut on his pitch by the station has long gone – another London street scene rendered a thing of the past by “progress”.  But recently, another enterprising stand has been spotted there. But again, trying to charge the people of Croydon 20p for the “free” Evening Standard.

The reason for the charge is to defray the owners’ costs of distribution. It is almost as if, when drawing up their plans for the free future, the number crunchers reckoned their paper was really only for inside the C Zone.

That, though, is not good enough: if Geordie and his mates in High Street Ken want to produce a free evening newspaper for fashionable central London only, then they should admit it outright and stop trying to pass themselves off as a paper for the whole of London.

The 20p is not the issue here. It is the disparity of treatment of potential Standard readers in outer London boroughs, such as Croydon, and those who live or work in the centre of the city. A pound spent on a Standard advertiser’s product in Allder’s is just as valuable to the advertiser as £1 spent on the same product in Peter Jones on Sloane Square.

As Livingstone said (on a different subject) at last night’s Labour Mayoral hustings at Ruskin House, “No one calls themselves an ‘Inner Londoner’ or an ‘Outer Londoner’. They call themselves a Londoner.”

The reason for raising this now is that the Standard, buoyed by the success of selling more advertising because of its boosted circulation, is planning to increase its distribution further still, up by a further 100,000 (to 700,000) from October.

That will surely mean that they will endeavour to better distribute to outer London. And that may mean more vendors in Croydon.

We recommend that no one should pay anything for a copy of the “free” Evening Standard.

Evening Standard to increase circulation in move toward profitability.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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