How digitisation and looking outside London are paying off for the Evening Standard

Evening Standard's AIDSfree campaign

The Evening Standard's digitisation has borne fruit. In the last year, it has delivered a redesign and rebrand intended to help it expand its audience beyond London. Its efforts epitomised by a Grand Prix win at The Drum Online Media Awards this week.

Although national, and global interest, in its digital output has been growing steadily organically, the 191-year-old tabloid last year told The Drum that it was time to "turn up the volume” when it comes to international expansion.

First, under the editorship of former chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, it cut ‘London’ from its title.

“We are [moving] to the name that the readers understand, and I think it also speaks for the ambition of the paper, which is to not just look into London but also to look out to the nation," Osborne said.

“Now we have a big online presence… many of our online readers are not in London.”

The publisher's efforts to broaden the tone of the site and make it more widely accessible have not been in vain.

David Tomchak, The Standard’s digital editor-in-chief explained last year: “What we've been looking at is taking the cosmopolitan stories of the city – the liberal, open-minded, pro-arts and pro-business vibes that are in London – and trying to package them up in a way that's appealing to audiences outside of London.”

This appeal was best summarised by it taking home the top prize at The Drum Online Media Awards on Tuesday (30 April), after sweeping up accolades in three other categories: Editorial Campaign of the Year; National News Site of the Year; and Best Lifestyle/Leisure News Site.

The Standard's new mindset has also helped it had doubled its yearly unique visitor growth in a year to 63%, balanced across its breaking news, live sport and political blogs and new luxury platform Insider. It also claims to be the "fastest growing UK newsbrand" – a quirk that helped sway The Drum's judges in categories where it was pitted against national heavyweights like The Guardian, HuffPost UK, The i, Sky News and The Independent.

In 2017, the title invested in its digital strategy to make the site faster and more secure, with the move coming ahead of the redesign, and in front of the editorial change in tone.

The goal on the digital side for The Standard has been to “set itself apart from other digital platforms by embodying the spirit of London. The title pledged its content would be "diverse and always has its finger on the pulse,"; a promise that was made across verticals including fashion, food, travel, wellbeing and tech.

Summarising this intent, Osborne told The Drum last year: “My view is that your Evening Standard reader wants to know about Kim Jong-un but also wants to know about Kim Kardashian. You can pitch to both interests. You can talk about Brexit but you can also tell people the best place to get breakfast in London.”

The brand has also shown it's capable of taking a stand and using its platform for good.

In The Drum's Editorial Campaign of the Year category, The Evening Standard trumped Channel 4 News and ITN’s ‘The Windrush Generation’ drive; CNN’s ‘As Equals’; i’s ‘Life on Universal Credit’; The Independent’s 'Final Say' work; and Vice Media’s ‘Recognise Me’ campaign, with its AIDSfree appeal.

During Christmas 2018, the purpose-driven push raised £3.26m in just two months to support the work of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, all engineered while the musician was in the national spotlight as the star of John Lewis’ retelling of his eventful life.

Its efforts contributed to work on the ground in London, Nairobi, Atlanta, Kiev, Delhi and Maputo.

A campaign, supplemented with editorial support saw world leaders later gather together with a vow to end the global Aids epidemic in cities by 2030.

Speaking on the results, Osborne said: “With your help we have changed government policy here in this country. We have raised awareness that this is a global challenge we can rise to. We have encouraged more people to get tested. We have run our most successful campaign ever.”

Channel 4 was another media title to perform admirably at The Drum's Online Media Awards. It secured Best Campaigning/Investigative Journalism, Video Team of the Year, Content Creator of the Year and Editor of the Year.

Click here for the full list of winners and their work.

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