Every national newspaper will go free within 10 years and the Daily Mirror should be the first, according to its former editor, Piers Morgan.
In an interview published in the British Journalism Review, the national newspaper editor turned TV personality said Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey needed to make the Mirror free before The Sun did the same.
“I would make the Daily Mirror free tomorrow, because I don’t see any future for it otherwise,” Morgan said.
“If The Sun were to go free tomorrow it would kill the Mirror. It’s a horrific position to be in and I’m sure that if Sly Bailey could find a buyer at the right price she’d sell the national titles like a shot.”
According to the official ABC national newspaper circulation figures for October, the Mirror’s circulation fell seven per cent year on year to 1.42m copies a day.
Free title Metro, which today unveiled its first major redesign since it launched in 1999, is within 60,000 copies of overtaking the Mirror’s distribution.
In October, the Associated-owned morning free paper distributed 1.36m copies a day in all of the major British cities.
“I think within 10 years every Fleet Street paper will be free,” Morgan told the British Journalism Review.
“Look, if you gave away a free cup of coffee to every commuter in every city in Britain, eventually nobody is going to buy a coffee because their perception of a cup of coffee is that it’s worth nothing.”
He added: “Free papers are being bombarded on to people in every city and they are getting better and better.
“The quality is improving week in, week out, and when they get as good as the paid-fors, it’s the end of paid-for newspapers.”
Morgan predicted that print newspapers would exist for another 30 years, but “probably not a lot longer than that”.
“It’s only the old guard that likes the feel of a print newspaper,” he said. “Paper is just going to die out, just as books are going to die out in their present form.”
He praised the journalists working on the Daily Mirror in the “ferociously competitive environment” of rolling TV news and the internet.
“The current editor of the Mirror, Richard Wallace, has an immeasurably harder job than Hugh Cudlipp’s editors ever did,” Morgan said.
“He’s now producing a daily paper five times the size with a fifth of the staff.
“I salute the current journalists and editors because I know how difficult their job is compared with their predecessors.”
Morgan, who edited the Mirror from 1995 to 2004, begins a new chat show on ITV1 in the new year.