By Sarah Lagan
While regional newspaper rivals scratch their heads about the Manchester Evening News’ decision to give away 50,000 copies per day in the city centre, its editor says the radical strategy is the only oute out of the doom and gloom of falling circulation and advertising revenue.
MEN Editor Paul Horrocks said: "Our aim is to regain the title of Britain’s biggest regional paper with a combined paid-for and free distribution of more than 180,000, which we then hope to rise to 200,000 over the course of this year. The word ‘free’ as not always had the best PR, but I think the morning Metro has changed that massively and the only difference you will see in the MEN is that it’s free in the city centre.
"We’ve got a successful city that 150,000 people come to every day and we were only shifting 7,000 MENs in the city centre. It is a radical and bold strategy, I would venture to say, and it will have ramifications across the industry."
From Tuesday (2 May) 50,000 free copies of a full-size MEN will be available in the city centre through newsagents, via large employers and street vendors.
Horrocks said: "We have looked at the regional newspaper industry and decided that the doom and gloom that surrounds the business at the moment is not for us and we are going to do something about it. We had actually extrapolated our rate of decline and found that by 2025 we wouldn’t have anything left."
Initially there will be three paid-for editions and two free editions. An overnight paid-for will go to print at 11pm, the second edition will go out at 8am and the third edition will go out at 11am. The first free edition will be on the streets by mid-morning and there will be a second free afternoon edition.
In September, the 8am edition will be dropped. With only two versions of the paper each day there will be fewer deadlines for journalists to hit, though some editorial staff could be expected to work later shifts. MEN is also going through a redesign, which will appear in mid-June.
Horrocks added: "We think this is the start of a change in attitude to the regional newspaper industry where we grow in audience. Nobody can predict this is perfect, and, yes, there are some risks to this whole strategy. But the greater risk is you sit here wringing your hands worrying about the next set of figures. My answer to those who might want to knock this strategy is ‘what’s the alternative?’"