Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Sorry, I'm still not convinced

The London Evening Standard's new 'Sorry' campaign has generated a lot of column inches and even more blog comment, but a couple of days post relaunch I thought I'd wade into the debate anyway.

I initially liked the campaign. Wasn't sure it would work, but liked it on a personal level because it could have been written just for me. The negativity, sensationalism and anti Ken Livingstone crusade that the Standard had been on had really turned me off the paper, so I resolved to buy a copy and see what had changed. Then they gave away Monday's edition for free, so it didn't even cost 50p to find out!

First impressions... well it's not negative in this first edition anyway. Would I pay 50p for it? No. Not when my commute is 20 minutes and a free London Paper will do (just) for 15.

Inside, it feels quite like the Guardian in terms of layout and suffers from the same problem that I have with the Guardian. It's not clear what to read first. If a page has got four stories on it and they're all the same size, where do you start? There's nothing to draw the eye.

Towards the middle, there's heavier comment pieces and for me, there's another problem here. Significant effort has gone into these, but at 7pm after a day at work, people are tired. You're going to need a long commute home before these start to look attractive. It's not that long articles are bad in themselves - if they kill 10 minutes then they're great - but the material needs to be light enough to not take too much effort, otherwise I'd be reading a book.

End result - I moved from the front of the paper to the back without reading very much. On a very early judgement, the Standard has gone from sensationalist, to inoffensive and a bit bland. I put it down after 10 minutes and picked up a London Paper lying on the seat, then spent as long reading that as I had the Standard. Not good.

I'll be interested to see what happens and would really like the poster campaign to work. The one off free edition was an expensive mistake for me though - people will change reading habits slowly even if they liked the free edition, so why throw your money away? Expecting instant success from a promotion is doomed to failure.

Finally, an observation from Charing Cross station last night at about 10.00pm. Late edition copies were being sold hard for 10p by hawkers in the obligatory branded t-shirts and they had loads left. Response from the chap in front of me to the line 'but it's only 10p'?

'I still don't want one. And they were free last night'.

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