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Paper payment expected to go mobile within three years

Gavin Haycock, Reuters Online

The Evening Standard said on Thursday it would launch the country’s first cashless payment card for a newspaper next week.

Vendors for the paper will start offering plastic swipe cards which allow users to buy credits online to pay for the 50 pence ($1) paper, enjoy loyalty schemes and discount offers.

The move is part of a strategy to take account of the high number of Londoners who don’t carry coins while on the move, latch onto a growing fashion for swipe cards on the Tube and on the heels of a switch to chip and pin bank cards.

“My target audience is already cashless. They have credit cards and 20 pound notes and don’t carry change,” Andrew Mullins, the Standard’s managing director told Reuters.

Data from the card will highlight when and where papers are bought, providing potential marketing opportunities with selected retailers. From January, readers will also be able to buy the paper using their own debit or credit cards.

Barclays this month launched its “wave and pay” card in London, combining a traditional credit card with Oyster transport payment for the Tube and a contactless card for small items.

Contactless payment systems such as Oyster have proved popular as they reduce the need to carry cash and are expected to be well suited to low-cost retail environments such as fast-good outlets, coffee shops and newsagents.

Mullins said the move to cashless payment would help protect the Evening Standard from sales declines during strikes on London’s transport networks and bad weather.

Another advantage of cashless payment cards was consumers tend to be less sensitive to price changes, he said.

“This could be an interesting concept. Does it make sense? ‘Yes’, it’s more convenient and it could be a powerful tool to help them extend their circulation,” said one media analyst who declined to be named.  The Evening Standard is published by Associated Newspapers and is part of Daily Mail & General Trust.

Until last year, the newspaper was the only afternoon newspaper in London. Its circulation has suffered amid the growing wave of free morning and afternoon newspapers targeting busy commuters in the country’s capital.

London’s two free afternoon newspapers are London Lite, which is also published by Associated Newspapers and The Londonpaper, which is published by News International, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

From next month, the free Metro morning newspaper, plans to ramp up its daily circulation to 1.36 million from across 16 UK cities with an additional 205,000 copies in London alone.

Underscoring the level of competition in the industry, The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper published by News International, cut the price of the tabloid in London and the southeast this month by 15 pence to 20 pence. It is also using vendors to sell the paper direct to commuters.

Such tactics mean some London street corners near train stations and underground tube networks can have three vendors pushing papers into commuters’ hands a few feet from newsagents.

Mullins said the market for newspapers in London should benefit, despite the increasing fragmentation among advertisers and readers, from the capital’s positive demographics, notably rising construction, more homes and the 2012 Olympics.

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