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'Lobby Lud and late news approach could rescue evening papers'

Puzzled over the contest of the London freebies, David Banks, who edited the Mirror in the 90s, questions the strategy of Associated Newspapers and News International in the Press Gazette. This is how he sums it up:

Thus, the solution to falling circulations and plunging ad revenues would appear to be to flood the most reluctant evening newspaper readership in Christendom with FIVE TIMES the number of copies they currently read. Then, to give Standard editor Veronica Wadley about as much chance as a one-armed paper hanger, Associated increases her title’s price from 40p to 50p.

After being kicked upstairs at the Mirror, Banks explains, he looked at the “information superhighway” but found his colleagues could not accept the threat to circulation, advertising and the existence of printed newspapers.

Now he feels the apocalyptic battle is being fought a little to early. Editions, late news and old time circulation boosting tricks (he cites Lobby Lud who 80 years ago boosted the Westminster Gazette’s sales by standing around waiting for someone to say “You are Lobby Lud and I claim the £5 prize”.) could, he believes, still work well. And to justify this view he points to Spain, flooded with free newspapers, where paid-for circulations are rising, saying:

Spain, a nation whose newspaper-reading public has never reached the heights of UK consumers, is experiencing, alone in Europe, significant growth in its newspaper buying habits.Disappointingly for A Place In the Sun and all those other wannabe-migrant TV shows, a recent report in El Pais attributes the strengthening of paid newspaper readership not to the reading habits of British ex-pats but to a boom in offers and promotions, up almost 20 per cent year-on-year.While circulations — paid-for AND freebies — in most other European countries are falling, Spain has managed to increase its paid circulation, even in a market inundated with free papers, and increase newspaper revenues by 40 per cent.

He suggest a diet of news, non-fiction and opinion laced with tempting and valuable reader offers and promotions could work as well here.

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