Jeremy Lee: The Standard shows there's plenty of life in newspapers yet

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Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee

When General Sir Charles James Napier, a statue of whom sits atop one of the three occupied plinths in Trafalgar Square, conquered the Sindh province in modern-day Pakistan, he announced the victory with the message: "Peccavi." As history and classics scholars may recall, this was a clever wordplay on the Latin for "I have sinned".

Campaign has its own "peccavi" to declare, and it's one that fills an empty plinth of its own. At last week's Campaign Media Awards, the London Evening Standard should have taken its place on stage as joint winner of the Print Sales Team of the Year, along with the declared winner, ShortList Media. Sadly, the administration of the judging of this particular award was subsequently found to be somewhat lacking, and the judges' intentions were not fully noted. To them, too, we also offer apologies. Be assured, it won't happen again.

Along with ShortList, the Standard's story and record in driving innovation is a remarkable one. Named our Medium of the Year last year in the Campaign Annual for its audacious and successful transformation from a paid-for to a free distribution model, it continues to go from strength to strength.

Editorial quality remains as high as when it was paid for, while its sales team, led by Jon O'Donnell, has succeeded in outperforming the market and their collaborative approach has resulted in a massive increase in non-traditional revenue. Commercial firsts and an increase in the number of contextual supplements, rising from 14 last year to 25 this year and with an accompanying tripling in revenue, shows that the press sector is far from moribund.

This looks all the more promising given how generally stark some of the media commentators have taken the impact of the Leveson inquiry, which is examining the ethical practices of newspapers, on the medium (see Media Forum, opposite). Fortunately, it is not one entirely shared by the media buying community, showing that there's nothing that the media elite likes writing about more than media itself.

Of course, the market is tough and publishers have yet to successfully work through the print/digital conundrum, but with successes like the Standard and ShortList, there is much optimism for a medium that has been written off all too freely in the past. The fact that the Standard won a solus project from NatWest in a pitch against all other media show the potency of the product in particular and the medium in general.

While Austin Healey's slightly risque banter at the awards night might not have gone down as well with everyone as it did with IPM's Roy Jeans and UM London's Mark Middlemas, whose belly laughs echoed around the room, there can be little doubt that both ShortList and the Standard deserve to share the spoils of this victory.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

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