Manchester Evening News steps back on free distribution

The Manchester Evening News is to row back from its strategy of giving away thousands of copies by restricting free distribution to just two days a week. The paper – part of Guardian Media Group, which also publishes the Guardian and – will give the paper away on Thursdays and Fridays only from early in the new year.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the paper will be available on a paid-for basis only, as is already the case on Saturday. Since May 2006, the MEN has handed out free copies in central Manchester to expand its reach to advertisers, at the cost of around a third of paid-for circulation.

The paper said the change was designed to strengthen paid-for sales from Monday to Wednesday. It will continue to give away 90,000 free copies on Thursday and Friday. Ruth Spratt, managing director of MEN Media, said: “The Manchester Evening News is our flagship title and we believe that the new distribution model will benefit paid-for sales on Monday to Wednesday while continuing to provide advertisers with the high volume readership they have come to expect on Thursday and Friday.”

The move comes amid speculation about the paper’s future after GMG confirmed it had held “exploratory talks” about selling its regional news. In March, MEN Media, which also owns 22 weeklies based in the north-west, including the Stockport Express and Rochdale Observer, announced it would close all the editorial offices of its weekly newspapers and axe 150 jobs, 70 of them editorial.

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