Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley ruled out the possibility of the main paper turning free following the launch of Standard Lite on Tuesday.
Some 50,000 copies of the new slimmed-down free edition were distributed in central London between 11.30amand 2.30pm on Tuesday.
Printed between the first and second editions of the main paper, it contains much of the same news as the paid-for editions but minus supplements, columnists and detailed features.
Responding to the suggestion that Standard Lite could lead to the main paper going free Wadley said: “No.
That’s not the plan at all. We are redefining evening papers. Evening sales all over the world are in decline and we’ve looked at the Standard, which has a very strong sale and a very strong brand, and looked at how we can produce a paper which complements what we do with the full West End Final – and this is what we’ve come up with.”
Wadley said plans for Standard Lite had been around since early summer and came about because “we were aware of the fact there was an audience we were not reaching.”
She said it is hoped that Standard Lite will become a permanent addition to Associated Newspapers’ London offering, which also includes the free morning paper Metro, distributed at tube and rail stations.
Six extra production staff have been brought in to produce the new edition launched by Mail on Sunday executive editor Martin Clarke.
Wadley said Standard Lite is aimed specifically at younger readers and women, and rebutted views that it would harm the Standard ‘s main sale.
She said: “You are reaching different readers. It’s only available in a small area of central London. Our distribution goes right beyond theM25 all the way to the south coast, so that paper won’t be available to them. It also won’t be available after 2.30pm and our main sale the, West End final, is on the streets by 3pm.”
Several commentators have expressed surprise that the Standard Lite ran to 48 pages.
Wadley replied: ” In the market at the moment you can’t produce something that isn’t very good – it’s bold and we think it’s innovative.”
Copies of the Lite will count toward the Standard ‘s overall ABC circulation figure, although they will be separated from the news-stand sales.
It is distributed by the paper’s existing pavement vendors at the same time as the paper’s early edition is already on sale.
Evening Standard managing director Mike Anderson said there are 600,000 people who leave their office at lunchtime in central London but do not read a newspaper.
He said: “We feel we can reach them with this new edition specifically designed for their interests.
“We are confident there are enough discerning consumers in London for there to be a larger market overall for the Standard and its multiple editions.”
STANDARD FACT FILE
Population of Greater London: 7.1 m
Standard circulation (Nov 2004 ABC): 370,832 (down 10 per cent year-onyear.)
Standard circulation (Nov 2000 ABC): 416,358.
Distribution of free morning Metro in London: 450,000.
Distribution of Standard Lite: 50,000.
Number of people working in Central London (according to Standard): 1.2 million.
Office workers who take a lunchtime break: 600,000.
Evening Standard losses 2003: £5million.
By Dominic Ponsford