The Week: Best of the blogs - Is Standard really free?

The London Evening Standard has become Britain's first proper newspaper to go completely free. It's interesting because we have a value perception of the Standard, so getting one for free feels like a good deal.

But will going free affect the journalism and style of the Standard, and, if so, how? But there is an equally interesting question. Is it healthy for a serious newspaper to rely 100 per cent on ad revenue for its survival? Sure, we've all got used to the idea of free content, free entertainment and, with the growth of online, free news. But just because we want or expect things to be free, does that necessarily make it a good thing?

In the 60s, Howard Gossage wrote an excellent piece on the death of the The New York Times, Western Edition, entitled: "What good is freedom of the press if there isn't one?" In it, he makes the case that a newspaper should belong to its readership, in that it is their money (the coverprice) that should keep it alive, not advertising revenue.

It's an interesting thought right now because, notionally, a paid-for newspaper has a responsibility to its reader, but a newspaper that is kept alive wholly by money from advertising? Where do its responsibilities and allegiances lie? As a reader, should we still expect it to be us? It's an example of how, as readers and consumers, we can potentially lose our power simply by demanding that something be free.


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