Advent of Tube wifi spells doom for Evening Standard

London title will shift from a daily print edition to a weekly one after signals improve on parts of Underground

Glide down the escalator, lose your wifi signal. Step into the lift to the platform, not a single bar left. For years, non-existent mobile coverage on the London Underground has been the bane of Tube users’ travelling lives but something of a lifeline for printed newspapers, especially those that went out of their way to target commuters.

Now the roll-out of improved, if still patchy, wifi services on parts of the Underground has been pinpointed by London’s Evening Standard newspaper as one of the reasons why it is poised to scrap its daily print editions in favour of a weekly publication.

Of course, the advent of better Tube wifi won’t be the only reason for this unsurprising decision. The Evening Standard made the move from paid title to freesheet in 2009 – a step that is often a precursor to more radical cutbacks – and has been suffering financially for a long time.

But the newspaper’s circulation was tied to its distribution at Underground stations from Monday to Friday. Now potential readers who are still commuting, rather than working from home, can reject the offer of a newspaper and feel reasonably confident that they will have access to alternative reading material on their journeys home.


That better Underground mobile services have served as a final straw for the continued daily publication of the loss-making title – owned by Evgeny Lebedev, son of oligarch Alexander Lebedev – is a microcosm of a reality that has affected the entire newspaper sector.

Smartphones have either already spelled doom for the profitability, and ultimately the viability, of print editions, or they soon will. The Evening Standard, by virtue of its stay of execution on London’s once reliably signal-free transport network, is merely a dramatic example of a trend to which all print is exposed to at least some degree.