A free newspaper group in Kent has announced it is to begin charging for some copies of its two flagship titles from this weekend.
The independently owned KOS Media, which publishes Kent on Sunday and sister paper Kent on Saturday, has launched the part-paid part-free initiative in a bid to improve circulation.
Until now, about 100,000 free copies of each title have been left in newsagents and supermarkets across the county for shoppers to pick up.
Some of these free copies were delivered to houses as part of newsagents’ existing home delivery rounds.
From Saturday, 150,000 copies will be printed. About 50,000 of these will be sold in shops at a 90p cover price.
On top of the paid-for copies, KOS Media said it would continue to print and distribute 100,000 free copies to targeted homes.
It is asking newsagents to encourage their customers to sign up for a paid-for delivery to guarantee getting a copy each weekend.
KOS Media managing director Paul Stannard said the group had never been able to print enough copies of the papers to meet demand.
“The copies used to run out very quickly,” he told Press Gazette. “Newsagents have never stopped knocking on our doors saying: ‘We think you should sell this paper’.”
He said the paid-for sales would help subsidise the cost of continuing to produce 100,000 free copies of each paper.
“Our aim at this point in time is to maintain the number of free copies that we’ve put out. These extra copies will be funded out of the sales,” Stannard said.
But he added: “As with any media company if in the next four to five years we seeing the market decline at the same rate it has in the past six months then everybody will be looking at their business model.”
Kent on Sunday launched in September 2002. Two years later it became the first free title to win newspaper of the year at the Regional Press Awards.