Between the lines: Desmond defies history?

In the week that Richard Desmond's pension pot bulged by an extra £31 million, readers of his Daily Express could also be facing a financial fillip of sorts. Desmond and his team are looking at ways to shore up the Express' circulation and revenue; on the agenda is the idea of turning it into a freesheet (see page 1).

Diehard Express fans should refrain from whooping before they've considered the facts though. Any move to free circulation would undoubtedly be accompanied by cost-cutting measures on the paper itself.

The mere suggestion of undermining the 105-year-old Express will no doubt have the traditionalists up in arms and provide plenty of fresh fodder for the army of Desmond-bashers. But the economics of the national newspaper market are undeniable, as is the unassailable supremacy of the Daily Mail in the mid-market. Desmond is smart to look at alternatives to the downward curve. And you've got to hand it to him for continually surprising and challenging his rivals.

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