Evening Standard seals office distribution ties

The London Evening Standard is signing up major employers around London, including banks and law firms, to distribute copies of the newspaper in its freesheet form directly to staff in their office lobbies.

The deals would mean that thousands of City workers could be offered a copy in time for their homeward commute, which would put the paper in competition for the ABC1 audience targeted by morning business freesheet City A.M.

Matt Harrison, sales and marketing director at the London Evening Standard, said the plan is part of an ongoing evolution of the newspaper's distribution strategy. 'During October we have been moving around and testing where demand is highest in the City, then making changes each week,' he added.

The newspaper has received generally positive reader feedback since it relaunched as a free title on 12 October, according to Harrison, who claimed that more than 600,000 copies are being distributed every day.

'People expected the quality of the paper would drop, but it is the same newspaper with the magazine going out on a Friday and the Homes & Property supplement on a Wednesday. The demand has been so high some people have not been able to get one,' he said.

Rob Lynam, head of press trading at media agency Mediaedge:cia, said distribution was the key issue. 'I was at Southwark station at around 6.30pm one evening and could not find a copy,' he added. 'It will take a while to get the distribution right. At the moment, London Lite, with only 400,000 copies, looks like it is being spread more widely.'

The Standard has also been experimenting with distribution times, switching to late afternoons from its former lunchtime focus, to target those with a later commute.

The newspaper has also set up an area on its website to deal with queries from potential readers unable to track down a copy of the paper.

The Standard had problems with street distributors during its first few days as a free title. Teams dispensing copies by hand were forced to stop in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea after the council found a problem with permits. However, the issue has since been resolved.

Supply is also being widened to independent retailers. Harrison said more than 40 have been added to the distribution footprint. The paper is still available on the high street in some branches of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.

A full breakdown of how and where the paper is being distributed will not be available until the beginning of December, once November's ABC figures have been compiled.

Figures for October will include the first week of the month, when the title was still paid for and had an average circulation of 256,229. This will distort the daily average.

IN MY VIEW - EXPERT COMMENT

Distributing in corporate offices is a good strategy, but it takes a long time to get a significant number of partners. We have 2000 deals in place, but it takes years to set up.

If the Evening Standard is chasing the demographic we have with 600,000 copies, then it will find there are not that many people in the City fitting that demographic. It may have to go a bit more downmarket to pick up the audience from thelondonpaper. As far as it being a threat to us, however, absolutely not.

LAWSON MUNCASTER, MANAGING DIRECTOR, CITY A.M.

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