Indie to hand out 3m free newspapers

Steve Dinneen
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THE Independent will hand out 3m free issues of its revamped newspaper in marginal constituencies in the run-up to the general election.

The paper today unveiled a major facelift after being bought by ex KGB-man Alexander Lebedev last month.

The limited edition election editions will promote the newspaper’s independent stance by refusing to back any political party. It will also feature a four page cover wrap, which will promote the new-look paper.

The firm will distribute 300,000 free papers each day for 10 days from tomorrow. Approximately 60,000 copies a day will be handed out and posted in London.

The news will heighten speculation that Lebedev intends to make the newspaper permanently free in the coming months. He dropped the cover price for the Evening Standard in a move that has been seen as a success for the struggling newspaper.

The aggressive strategy will be seen as a threat by rivals including the Guardian, Times and Telegraph.

Yesterday Simon Kelner, the paper’s editor-in-chief, managing editor, and acting editor since the departure of Roger Alton earlier this month, refused to rule out scrapping the cover price.

He said the paper has been allocated a multi-million pound marketing budget and has hired advertising firm Beattie McGuinness Bungay to promote the relaunch. It will use the theme “You decide”, displaying straplines such as “This poster won’t decide the election. You will.”

The Independent also revealed the new-look Independent will feature a 20-page “Viewspaper” pullout containing its comment and features content. This is in addition to 60 pages of daily news.

The Independent now sells less than 90,000 copies a day at the full cover price from a total circulation of 184,137. Figures for April show circulation dropped 10 per cent year-on-year last month.

Lebedev bought the newspaper for a nominal sum of £1 last month. Previous owner Independent News & Media will also pay the Russian £9.25m over the next 10 months to take the paper off its hands.