The life cycle of a free newspaper business model in newspaper-rich markets
Free newspapers may offer different news contents to different audiences, when compared with traditional, paid-for newspapers, but they, nevertheless, concentrate on news, and thereby provide society with information on current affairs. These papers have seen circulation rise until 2008; after that, a decline set in, leading to closures and often a monopoly situation in the mature European newspaper markets covered in our research. Free newspapers seem to follow a typical life cycle pattern, moving from growth to maturity, and to saturation and decline. Diversification strategies – home-delivery, weekend, sports, afternoon, and financial – have been disappointing so far. There is no evidence, however, of total extinction, indicating that there is room for at least one title – possibly two – in every market. The situation in the surveyed markets also suggests that a free newspaper may be a ‘natural’ monopoly.
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