Paying the way

by Steve Watson in August 2009
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The London Paper

Not strictly a magazine story, but The London Paper is set to close down. It’s been three years since The London Paper and London Lite hit our streets, and from the beginning people have been speculating over how long the free war could go on for. News International launched The London Paper to eat into Associated Newspapers’ Evening Standard, but Associated retaliated by launching Lite – its own free paper.

Lite was supposed to be a line of defence to protect the Standard, but earlier this year Associated sold control of the Standard to Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev. I suppose there’s a chance that Lite will now gorge itself on double the advertising revenues, but if it’s losing as much money as The London Paper (pre-tax losses of £12.9m this year) it must surely be a matter of time before it shuts up shop too, leaving Lebedev feeling pretty pleased with himself.

Everyone had written the Standard off, and even its relaunch received a mixed reception. But suddenly this is looking like a resounding victory for paid content. Rupert Murdoch has announced that he plans to charge for The Sun and The Times by next summer, and it’s not just big business that is exploring the wisdom of paid – plucky emag Blanket is now available only to those who will pay a couple of dollars for it (read more from editor Bec Brown in the comments of my recent emag post).

Will we one day look back on the last few years of free content and shake our heads in disbelief? Or is this just a blip in what Chris Anderson sees as the future of business? I haven’t got a clue, but I can’t wait to see the magazines, emags, papers and other stuff that launches over the coming months and years to test the different models.

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