Free Newspapers have been the unexpected commercial good news story over the last few years, from London to Reykjavik. Some commentators have pointed out that they are well-placed to survive the coming economic freeze. The excellent media analyst Frederik Filloux agrees that they are good performers in relation to advertising:

 “I tend to believe the free press has two assets that could attenuate the effect of a recession — only for the best of them. One is (again) the ad performance: much better that in the paid press (each time I’ve seen an advertiser doing a test based of performance, it scored high). The second asset being the distribution/logistic system. It not always known, but in many instances, free newspapers are much better at targeting and tracking audiences that the paid ones (which have a sick 30% rate of unsold papers every day). This has a tremendous value in itself and advertisers will certainly bet on it.”

That’s not so surprising coming from someone who works for Schibsted, a company that publishes some of the Continents most popular freesheets. But he also warns of tough times ahead for all:

“OK, some British free papers such as City AM (in my view one of the best of its league) or TheLondonPaper are still in expansion mode (the former is launching new cities, and the latter enjoys record ad revenue), but 70% of the free titles are still not making profits, and will face hard times, as everyone else will.”

Polis is currently scoping an event on the future of the journalism business model – contact us at polis@lse.ac.uk if you are interested in getting involved.

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