ABCs: Freebie war deals a blow to Standard

The Evening Standard was not wiped out in September — as some predicted —by the launch of two rival free evening newspapers in the capital.

But its 18.9 per cent drop in paid-for circulation would, in other circumstances, be seen as a disaster and puts the Standard firmly at the bottom of Press Gazette's unique league table of year-on-year paid-for circulation growth.

The Standard reacted to the launch of News International's thelondonpaper and its own sister title London Lite at the start of September by raising its price to 50p.

Its overall circulation drop of 11.7 per cent was helped by the fact that 17,550 extra bulk copies were given away free, making a total of 50,302 giveaways.

Editor Veronica Wadley said: "I am delighted our readers have remained loyal to the Standard. We are holding our core audience and we are reaching that vital affluent AB market that others find so difficult to reach."

In the battle of the freebies, Associated Newspapers' London Lite had the biggest daily distribution, at 359,389, versus thelondonpaper's 327,120, according to ABC. Associated's freesheet is apparently benefiting from having a lunchtime edition.

Year-old daily free London business newspaper City AM continued to edge up its distribution, up 15.16 per cent on last year at 90,682.

The Guardian was this month's biggest faller in the year-on-year growth chart, down 14 places to 16, up against strong figures from the Berliner relaunch last year. Month on month, it was one of the biggest risers to 389,186 — helped by extensive promotional spending (see Freebie Watch).

The Independent on Sunday was again star performer with net sales rising 16.7 per cent to 196,594. It continues to benefit from its tabloid relaunch — it is still up against broadsheet figures from last year.

Overall, Press Gazette's circulation chart shows that the quality and mid-market titles are out performing the red-tops.

The Times's net sales performance in September was a below average drop of 3.7 per cent.

But editor Robert Thomson claimed to Press Gazette that it is now market leader on full-price UK sales, which in September averaged 491,641 versus The Daily Telegraph on 444,495 and the Financial Times on 89,453.

He said: "The full-price, real-money lead over The Daily Telegraph has never been greater, and the lead over the FT has now topped 400,000. Discerning readers are still prepared to pay good money for quality journalism."

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