Media: Double Standards - 'I hate the word "free". What is a free market?'

The MDs of two 'free' London papers on how they provide value for money for clients, as well as giving commuters an alternative to just staring at their shoes.

IAN CLARK - MANAGING DIRECTOR, THELONDONPAPER

- Since launch, how has your product made an impact on the newspaper market?

Thelondonpaper has reinvigorated a market that was struggling to reach out to young and upmarket readers, by creating a paper that now boasts a higher profile of ABC1 18- to 24-year-olds than any other newspaper ... and they work in our capital city. Oh, and there are more than a million of them reading every day.

- Are free newspapers more exposed than those with a coverprice during a downturn because of the reliance on ad revenue?

All media are exposed in a downturn and free papers clearly can't influence sales through price elasticity. They would only be more exposed if they had already reached maturity in the ad market. For example, while Metro may now have reached this level after nine years in the UK, its ad volume is significantly higher than it was after its first two years. We continue to grow substantially and indeed our ad revenue in each of the past two weeks was an all-time record. We are highly efficient and cost effective and that is increasingly important.

- What are the benefits of strong competition in the free, London market?

For clients, it means greater choice and value for money. We have to work harder and be more creative when responding to briefs. For readers, it means greater availability and less staring at your shoes on the commute home.

- What are you offering to advertisers that nobody else can?

Our market-leading creativity challenged the norm for ad formats and placements, and continually breaks new ground. We offer immediacy through a highly targeted 500,000 circulation (more than 100,000 ahead of our nearest competitor). There is also the potential to run a multi-platform campaign, spanning our website, distributor sampling and genuinely integrated marketing promotions.

- How well do you feel you have addressed the environmental issues around free newspaper distribution, especially early concerns from councils over street littering and recycling?

Thelondonpaper is always printed on 100 per cent recycled paper with ink that is kinder to the environment. Working in partnership with London councils has greatly addressed early concerns. In Westminster, we helped fund a 50 per cent increase in their recycling bins and we have offered the same to all other councils. We also introduced more than 40 litter patrols who clean up and recycle more than 400 bags of litter every night. I believe there is still more that can be done on the Underground, to encourage readers to take their copies home, and we are working with Transport for London to promote recycling.

- How worried are you about clutter in the free market, with free weekly magazines also entering the fray?

Not at all; choice is good. A daily paper offers an instant communication with our readers that allows advertisers to build and reinforce messages more quickly. We have incredible levels of interaction with our readers, with very inclusive editorial, so I'm very confident of the growing strength of our brand.

- What best sums up your title's editorial approach?

We offer a vibrant and intelligent take on real life for those who work in the centre of the Metropolis, embracing its ethnic, sexual, political and attitudinal diversity. It is clear, concise and light-hearted, matching the mood and length of the journey of the evening commuter.

- Apart from your own title, what media do you consume as you live London life?

I love London and soak it all up, including the delights of City A.M.

LAWSON MUNCASTER - MANAGING DIRECTOR, CITY A.M.

- Since launch, how has your product made an impact on the newspaper market?

Editorially, we focus on front-line journalism and benefit from our late deadline. There is now clear light between ourselves (at number one) and the other nationals, with City A.M. reaching 33 per cent of workers in the City and Canary Wharf. More importantly, City A.M. talks to 233,000 daily readers in the Greater London area.

- Are free newspapers more exposed than those with a coverprice during a downturn because of the reliance on ad revenue?

I hate the word "free". No-one talks about "free CNN" and "free Bloomberg TV". What City A.M. delivers to its audience is quality paid-for journalism that produces a demographic that has no wastage in an advertiser's brief. Therefore, in the economic downturn, we have seen overall growth in revenues of 40 per cent and, for those City institutions that talk to each other, growth of 161 per cent. Our job is to deliver advertisers an environment that is cost effective, increases coverage and frequency, and has no wastage. That is our goal and that is what we deliver.

- What are the benefits of strong competition in the free, London market?

We don't see ourselves as competing in the free London market. City A.M.'s job is to deliver to our readership a quality overview of the business of that day and to give them a briefing before they start work. As opposed to filling a time gap, City A.M. fills a knowledge gap.

- What are you offering to advertisers that nobody else can?

Can you name me one medium that has 97 per cent of its audience earning an average income of £100k per annum with an average age of 39 - desirable opinion leaders with a high disposable income who engage our title at least three times a week? From an advertising perspective, we listen to our clients, producing highly innovative creative solutions to maximise impact and offer them the opportunity to blend in with the editorial product.

- How well do you feel you have addressed the environmental issues around free newspaper distribution, especially early concerns from councils over street littering and recycling?

Given our financial independence and focus on profitability, we are committed to cost efficiency that automatically limits our impact on the environment. When we increase our distribution, this tends to be in line with readers' demands, such as our recently introduced distribution to commuter stations such as Richmond and Surbiton. City A.M. has the lowest return record in this market and we are proud of that.

- How worried are you about clutter in the free market, with free weekly magazines also entering the fray?

Again, what is a free market? For content that is being paid for, this content is probably being produced on the basis that publishers have found a gap in the market. City A.M. has found that unique gap and attempts to deliver both to our readers and advertisers quality paid-for journalism that delivers advertisers' media briefs.

- What best sums up your title's editorial approach?

We are able to provide coverage of the business news that morning. The format ensures information is communicated in a concise and effective way. We inform our readers about the issues that matter to them, while also interacting directly with the people in our community.

- Apart from your own title, what media do you consume as you live London life?

In the morning: CNBC, Sky Sports News and The Times. I do peek at The Sun from time to time! The Evening Standard, as I don't commute. Otherwise, I would take both London Lite and thelondonpaper but, hand on heart, I would probably take thelondonpaper first.