Time Out has provided a sterling service to generations of Londoners throughout the four decades of its existence, but since its 1990s heyday, when it regularly sold more than 110,000 copies, the numbers have been dwindling.
The bite went on in 2006 as circulation started to fall rapidly from a noughties high of 92,577 copies, to 61,397 copies over the next three years.
The decline coincided almost exactly with a three-year onslaught from afternoon freesheets thelondonpaper and the London Lite, which both launched in 2006 and closed in 2009.
Months later, he sold a 50% stake to private equity firm Oakley Capital for around £10m, giving the business the wherewithal to invest in its digital offering (which includes a just-launched free iPad app).
The London edition's print circulation has since levelled out at 55,000 copies, according to the ABC figures for July to December 2011.
In the meantime, the waves of free competition never completely receded, due to the London Evening Standard taking the plunge in 2009 and weekly magazines Sport, Shortlist and Stylist offering Londoners plenty of alternative reading matter.
This April, the waters became choppier with the appearance of a direct competitor, free weekly listings launch, Scout London.
This has had its problems, but has potentially forced Time Out's hand.
Last week it revealed its plans to come off the newsstands and onto the streets, pledging to give away 300,000 copies at London Underground stations and transport intersections within zones 1 and 2.
Three industry press buyers give us their opinions on the impact of its move on the competition, and the challenges it will face.
Vanessa Clifford, head of press, Mindshare
It could be a bit of a threat to Scout magazine. Time Out has the brand recognition and that is a huge strength for them. Scout is still establishing itself.
On the other hand, it could work in Scout's favour – having two brands out there establishes a market. If you go to other cities like New York you'll find that they have two or three similar free titles all coexisting. But time will tell on that. Shortlist, Stylist and Sport will be less threatened by the move – in fact I think it will fit really nicely alongside those.
But cover price or not, things stand or fall by how good the content is, and from what I've seen of it, they've done a good job.
Vanessa Doyle, head of press, Initiative
This could be bad news for Scout. And this is probably the reason they've done it. Having said that, I think Scout is a fantastic proposition and the editorial is really strong.
As an agency, we'd just worry about Time Out's distribution model. There are already question marks about Stylist and Sport being handed out indiscriminately, so I would imagine we’ll get the same thing with Time Out. It was a very high-quality mag before – will it continue to be? The good editorial needed paying for.
As an advertiser, I think I would be worried that the quality of the mag itself doesn't drop and that there is a good enough product there to justify advertisers' money.
If they're going to look for an increase in advertising revenue off the back of an increased circulation that we're already not that convinced about, it's going to be quite a difficult negotiation.
Amy King, head of press, MPG Media Contacts
I think it's a great initiative. Rather than waiting for circulation to gradually drop away, they've taken the bull by the horns and done a lot of research – which they've shared with me – and they've spotted that there is a gap in the market and that this brand will appeal to people.
I don't see Stylist and Shortlist being affected at all. I actually see Time Out as a nice complement to what those titles offer and think it will appeal to those who read Stylist and Shortlist as an additional pick-up. At this stage, there's no telling what effect it will have on the rest of the market. All we can do is wait and see.
In my opinion, the main challenge that they face is keeping the quality of the content to the level that the current readership is used to. Like the Evening Standard, they will have to maintain their integrity and their strong editorial content. If they follow the Evening Standard's example, then they stand in very good stead to be a success.