I’ve lived in London for over twenty-five years. In that time I can’t have bought more than a dozen copies of the Evening Standard. And I don’t think that makes me particularly unusual. From what I can se, the Standard is pretty universally despised by people who live in London. The people who you see reading it on the tube are all people who are commuting home to the Home Counties. The Standard sells itself as the London paper but, in reality, its content is far too “middle England” to appeal to your average Londoner. The recent sale of the Standard, transfering ownership from Associated Newspapers to Alexander Lebedev has, so far, done nothing to change this image.
So I was interested to see the paper’s recent campaign apologising to Londoners. The paper claims to be sorry for taking us for granted, for losing touch with us and for being too negative. Only a cynic would suggest that they’re really most sorry for losing a large percentage of their readership to the free papers like thelondonpaper and London Lite.
And yesterday, the paper was relaunched in an avalanche of publicity. For one day only the paper was given away. So I picked up a copy and read it on my way home. I felt just like a real commuter. Here’s what I thought of it.
It certainly looks a lot nicer. The layout has been redesigned and it seems a lot cleaner. Part of that is probably the imporved paper stock that they’re using. They’ve added the word “London” to the masthead, presumably in an attempt to emphasise their link with the city.
But when you start reading, it really doesn’t seem that different. Oh, I don’t think it’s quite as borderline xenophobic as the old Standard was. And it seems to have lost some of its nasty “Daily Mail” edge, but that has been replaced by a higher amount of celebrity news like you see in the freesheets. I don’t think it’s as bad as thelondonpaper or London Lite, but given that reading either of those papers will actively decrease your IQ that’s damning with the faintest of faint praise.
Today the price gos back up to 50p. And I’ll go back to ignoring the Standard. They had one day to attract my attention and they blew it.
Although, to be fair to them, it’s not clear to me that there’s any paper that I’d pay 50p for these days. I’ve even got out of the habit of buying the Guardian every morning. I get all of my news from the internet. Which has a couple of distinct advantages to me. Firstly, it’s free (well, until Murdoch gets his way) and secondly I can read just the bits that I’m interested in and ignore the celebrity news and the sport.
So perhaps I’m not a typical Londoner. Maybe other people will be tempted to pick up the Standard again. I mean, they’ve apologised to us all. It would be rude not to, at least, acknowledge that.