Richard Desmond is working on a sensational plot to relaunch the Daily Express as a national freesheet in a bid to turn around its flagging circulation figures.
Desmond, the chairman of Express Newspapers, has asked Christian Toksvig, the company's international operations director and former development manager, to assess the viability of making the switch to a freesheet.
This follows consistent declines in the Express' circulation this year and a fall in September sales of 6 per cent to 960,320. This compares with the Daily Mail's circulation figure of 2,346,229.
Sources suggest the move would involve cutting back on editorial resources to compensate for the loss of coverprice revenue, which stands at about £350,000 a day.
One insider said that Toksvig - an expert on the freesheet market, having previously worked at the Swedish company Metro International - had already sounded out senior figures with freesheet experience about potentially joining the Express. According to one source, the plan is being considered alongside other options for the Express' future, but no final decision has been taken. The insider said: "It might sound ludicrous but often ludicrous ideas give us an idea of the way forward."
Express Newspapers has been planning an evening freesheet in London for two years. Associated's Evening Standard is considering the launch of a free "lite" version of its newspaper in London, as exclusively revealed in Campaign last week.
An Express spokesman denied that it is considering the freesheet move.
He said: "This is absolute crass nonsense."
- Comment, p48.