Richard Addis rolls out ultra-local newspaper model

Former Daily Express editor and Financial Times executive Richard Addis has said he believes all British newspapers will be given away free in the future, with the possible exception of the Daily Mail and other top-selling titles.

He was speaking to Press Gazette ahead of launching a business publishing free ‘ultra local’newspapers in the wealthy suburbs of London.

Addis said he did not consider launching paid-for papers – despite the wealthy, ABC1 readership he is targeting.

He said: ‘I’m a big believer in and crusader for free newspapers. Everything’s going to be free soon; it’s the new paid-for. ‘I think paid-for really is a dying model. Even video games are being given away for free in Japan and on the back of them they sell advertising. ‘Papers that make less money from their cover price will be the first ones to go free, but they tend to be quite small circulation papers like The Independent. The FT could go free. The Sunday Times and Daily Mail would be the last, because they make so much money on sales. ‘I’m sure there’ll still be some who have business models with paid. I didn’t even consider going paid-for, anything new should be free.’Investors backing the project have launched London Bridge Publishing and put Addis at its helm. The first title is to launch just after Easter in an as yet undisclosed wealthy London suburb. It is understood that 15,000 copies will be distributed through letterboxes.

Addis said he planned to branch out to similar markets but would not elaborate on how soon he expected to roll papers out, other than saying it would be ‘very slow and steady”. He also envisages expanding elsewhere in the country. He said: ‘It depends whether we can persuade these advertisers that these few people are worth contacting. The cost of running this paper will be very low, so it’s not as though we need a lot of advertising. There will be a low advertising ratio, I expect.’London is already served by more than 50 established paid-for and free local weeklies. But Addis believes there is still a big appetite for more parochial news and he believes that, despite London’s transient nature, people still feel enough belonging to the city to want a local paper.

‘There are people in London who have lived here for many years. Where I live in Battersea the average person stays for five or six years. ‘Whether they lived in an area one year or 50 years they are still interested in what the ambulance was doing down the roads last night, what’s happening to the parking regulations and whether the street market is going to move.

‘I’m getting really into local news in my head. It’s very different from what I was doing before. I’m doing it to be an entrepreneur rather than just being a journalist, and make a business. The only thing we would not carry much of is international news.”

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