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London Evening Standard goes free

LONDON'S Evening Standard newspaper is to be given away free to commuters from today after 182 years as a paid-for regional paper. The paper was sold for 50 pence (79 US cents) and distributed outside London stations and in newsagents across the capital. But the decision to give the paper away for nothing has worried some vendors who say they face unemployment.

In an earlier statement the paper said it hopes the move will boost its daily circulation from its current 250,000 to 600,000. The decision will increase competition with London's other free papers, the London Lite, owned by the Daily Mail, and the Associated Newspapers' Metro. Even the free newspaper market is heavily competitive, relying on advertising to cover costs. Last month the freely distributed thelondonpaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, closed after only three years.

Murdoch himself is fighting a war against freely distributed news. The News Corp. recently started a subscription service for some of the online content of the Wall Street Journal. Speaking last week at the World Media Summit in Beijing, Murdoch said, "There should be a price paid for quality content, and yet large media organizations have been submissive in the face of the flat-earthers who insisted that all content should be free all the time."

But the Evening Standard is adamant that the quality of the paper will not drop. "Being a quality newspaper with large scale and reach should transform our commercial fortunes," Andrew Mullins, the paper's managing director said. "Our London reach will be at multiples of the quality national titles and our London classified business will once again have significant scale." The decision was reached due to added pressures of competition from the Internet, 24 hour TV news channels and mobile phones, Mullins said.


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