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“Our circulation has gone from 250,000 and falling, to 600,000. The cost of getting each copy to a reader has gone from 30p to 4p. We used to pay newsagents for taking the paper, now they take it for free,” Evgeny Lebedev, senior executive director of the Evening Standard, told the FT.
I nearly choked on my rice pops! He says he has cut his daily distribution costs from £75,000 to £24,000. Which if he publishes 250 times a year is a £12.8m saving. But whether the sums add up, we may never know.
Of more concern to a retailer planning to build a business on selling newspapers is Mr Lebedev’s suggestion that this is the future for all newspapers. There may not be many of them if it is!
Suppliers should not over-estimate the attractiveness of footfall to local retailers. Footfall does not help the weekly payroll, one Yorkshire retailer told me at trade show CTN World last weekend. He was particularly critical of a well-know payment services company, who he said he had shown the door to! The only low margin footfall generator that comes in for any praise is Camelot and that is because, retailers tell me, that when they sell a lottery ticket they are selling dreams.
I am sure that Mr Lebedev is too far away from our mortal world of retailing to have been briefed on what to think about the Standard turning its back on millions of pounds of profit for local retailers by going free. However, local retailers gain from his remarks an insight into the thinking of remote decision makers, which rarely includes them.
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