As former KGB operative Alexander Lebedev this month completes his deal to buy the London Evening Standard, the paper has revealed it is losing paid-for sales at a rate of 14.5 per cent a year.
The ABC circulation figures for January reveal that the Standard had an average daily circulation of 292,976 a day, of which 134,667 were given away for free via bulk distribution deals with hotels, airlines and train companies.
The Standard's average paid-for sale in January was 158,309 compared with 185,052 in January 2008.
Lebedev's company, Evening Press Ltd, is expected to complete the purchase of a 75 per cent share in the Evening Standard for £1 from Daily Mail and General Trust by the end of this month.
London-based daily financial newspaper City AM saw a drop in circulation to 87,655 in January - compared with a peak distribution of 102,135 in November.
Distribution of London's other free dailies held more steady in January with London Lite and thelondonpaper more or less unchanged at 400,860 and 500,578 respectively.
National free daily Metro was down 1 per cent month-on-month at 1,335,978.
Looking at the national press, the Daily Telegraph gave away the most free copies via bulk deals with an average of 109,319 of its average daily circulation given away for free in January.
It was followed by The Times on 55,603, The Independent on 40,879, The Financial Times on 34,580 and The Guardian on 14,838.