Between the lines: ES freesheet is no surprise

Leaked news that the Evening Standard is plotting a lunchtime freesheet will come as little surprise to observers. In the latest ABC figures, the paper seems on a relentless downward curve and, under its editor, Veronica Wadley, the Evening Standard's identity crisis seems to have deepened - it appears unsure if it wants to be a national evening newspaper or a proudly local one serving London.

Reports of mounting tension between the paper's commercial division, headed by Mike Anderson, and editorial, and the suggestion that Wadley enjoys the protection of Paul Dacre, the editor of sister title the Daily Mail, can only frustrate attempts to revive the Standard's fortunes.

With Express Newspapers' Richard Desmond eyeing the freesheet market, the title is in peril. It needs new, younger readers and a clear London identity to build a stronger commercial argument. A Standard-lite could provide a good sampling opportunity but, unless the core product is right, it will only prime the market to welcome a Desmond rival.

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