Could the Manchester Evening News’s paid/free model provide a way out of London’s increasingly futile-looking battle of the evening freesheets for Associated Newspapers? Peter Preston puts it forward in his Observer column today, writing:
Why go through the sweat and cost of producing a 64-page Standard (for 50p) and a 42-page Lite (for nothing) when you could give away real Standards in the West End and City, knocking off the cover price inside a fixed area and delivering hundreds of copies to selected office blocks? To an extent that happens already: the Standard adds 62,000 bulks on top. But a more coherent mixed offering of 500,000 Standards, free and paid, would surely have more clout (and advertising allure) than an ailing 50p paper and a separate freesheet running second to Rupert.
Warming to his theme, he applies lateral thinking to the Guardian, pointing out that technology allowed both the Times and Independent to produce tabloid and broadsheet editions at the same time. So the Guardian could follow American models and produce a half-price digest tabloid aimed at busy young readers on the train.