MEN retreats on part-free strategy

The Manchester Evening News has signalled a retreat on its part free, part paid-for strategy – restricting it to just two days a week.

It means that the MEN will be part free, part paid-for on Thursdays and Fridays – and fully paid-for from Monday to Wednesday and on Saturdays.

The MEN is no-longer ABC audited. But judging from the most recent figures paid-for sales have sharply declined since it started giving the paper away in the city centre.

The MEN began its part free, part paid-for experiment in April 2006, giving away 50,000 copies in the city centre – but continuing to sell the paper further out.

Since then, paid-for sales have rapidly dropped and free copies have overtaken them. Combined circulation peaked at over 180,000, but since the onset of the downturn and recession the MEN has begun restricting free-circulation.

Manchester Evening News paid-for circulation in the first half of 2006 was 114,676. In the same period in 2008, this had dropped to 77,125.

In the last audited circulation figures, for the second half of 2008, the MEN had 71,933 paid for sales a day and 81,092 frees.

In the 2008/2009 financial year MEN Media made a profit of just £500,000 on turnover of £94.5m. Parent company Guardian Media Group revealed that it was loss-making for the second half of that financial year.

MEN Media managing director Ruth Spratt said of the latest move: “The Manchester Evening News is our flagship title and we believe that the new distribution model will benefit paid-for sales on Monday to Wednesday whilst continuing to provide advertisers with the high volume readership they have come to expect on Thursday and Friday.

“The challenge ahead is to continually look for innovative ways to flex all elements of our portfolio to provide readers and advertisers with the most effective media offering whether through print, broadcast or online.”

Guardian Media Group confirmed last week that it is in talks with a view to selling its regional media division – including MEN Media.

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