News (and stuff) from London E3

Saturday 5 December 2009

Lack of Standards

Two months on from the Evening Standard's giveaway rebirth, how is its distribution network doing? You may remember that free copies were originally available only outside central London stations and in scattered suburban supermarkets. By last month a few more independent shops and newsagents had got involved. And now? I've taken yet another look at the Evening Standard's newly-updated distribution map to find out. And I've summarised my findings in this handy graphic.

Evening Standard availabilityBloody hell, what happened there?!

The Evening Standard appears to have increased its number of distribution points in certain parts of London, but made a planned withdrawal from others. A huge triangle bounded by Enfield, Clapham and Richmond is now full of newspapers. Kilburn's on the up, Chiswick's on the up, Muswell Hill's on the up and (of course) Chelsea's on the up. A number of smaller newsagents have been added to the network here, which is great. There's also been some infill in parts of northwest London (hurrah for Harrow) and even down south (Forbuoys in Dulwich, rah rah rah). We have winners.

But there are also some very surprising losers. In Romford, where there used to be two distribution points, there are now zero. Walthamstow now has nothing, Sidcup has nothing, Purley has nothing, Uxbridge has nothing. In particular, the Evening Standard has almost completely given up on East London. The only distribution points east of the River Lea are to be found in Stratford and at London City Airport. Live anywhere else out east and the Standard has abandoned you. This means it's now impossible to pick up a Standard anywhere in the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham and Havering. Add in no-go zones in Bexley and Sutton south of the river, and the London Evening Standard is no longer a pan-London paper. Which sucks.

I did wonder whether this disappearance might be a mapping error, so I attempted to check. There's a freephone number in the Standard you're supposed to be able to ring during office hours to find out where to get a paper, so I rang it. A few rings and I was diverted to an answerphone message suggesting I try the map on the website. Alternatively I could leave my name and number and they'd ring me back "within two working days". I rang again later and got the same ludicrous response. Stuff that. So I tried some fieldwork of my own, and my worst fears were confirmed.

Last month the only place to obtain an Evening Standard in the E3 postcode was at my local Tesco. But the ES map no longer marks my local Tesco, so I trooped round with my shopping basket to investigate further. Hmmm, no sign of any Standards where they used to be, between the potatoes and the magazine rack. I enquired at the helpdesk to find out where they'd gone. "Oh no," said the lady behind the counter. "We used to have them for a few weeks, but not any more. They took them to the station instead."

So I crossed the A12 and went to Bromley-by-Bow station instead. This ought to be a very sensible location to give out Standards, because there's a steady flow of customers plus a newsagent's kiosk from which a pile of free papers could easily be distributed. The kiosk even has "Evening Standard" plastered across the front of it - no doubt a leftover from a bygone age when local people actually mattered. "Oh no," said the old bloke in the kiosk. "We haven't had any of those for months." He looked mildly annoyed by this, most likely because he has now nothing else to trade in the evenings other than drinks and snacks.

So yes, it is now impossible to obtain a copy of the Evening Standard anywhere in Bow, E3. Indeed you won't find a copy anywhere within about a mile and a half of Bow Church station. But head across town to Turnham Green station, also on the zone 2/3 boundary, and there are as many as 14 distributors within a similar radius. It appears that the Evening Standard has made a very selective retreat from the suburbs, and that it no longer gives a toss about East London. I fear that East Londoners won't miss it.