Summary:

Many publishers are introducing digital fees but, in print, shrinking economics are moving others to abandon cover prices. Their hope is to drive up free circulation and advertiser interest.

London Underground
photo: Annie Mole

As tens of thousands of Olympics spectators visit London, Time Out Group has decided to abandon its £3.25 magazine cover price and distribute free on the city’s streets.

From autumn, the magazine will be given away at London Underground stations in zones one and two. The publisher plans to distribute over 300,000 copies.

The magazine has lost 40 percent of its average weekly circulation in the last decade, to just 55,032, our chart shows…

The publisher promises “closer integration across all of Time Out’s print and digital products”, but did not clarify what that means.

Going free is repeating a trick performed successfully by London paper the Evening Standard. Abandoning cover price requires beefing up ad sales efforts, but the Standard has has managed to make more money by reaching more readers.

Freesheet newspaper circulation is in decline in Europe since the late noughties, when publishers rushed to launch rival titles and later closed some of them amid the ad sales downturn, according to researcher Piet Bakker.

The Evening Standard has filled the void left by The London Paper and London Lite’s exit, while a number of lifestyle magazines – Shortlist and Stylist – have followed suit.

With Time Out’s decision, the free magazine market may now be set for the same kind of shake-out newspapers had endured.

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