Launched last week with an initial circulation of 10,000, the MEN Lite has replaced the final paid-for edition of the day and, similar to Associated Newspapers' Standard Lite, contains a mix of news, lifestyle features, sports and entertainment taken from the paid-for edition.
Mike Williams, managing director of Universal McCann Manchester, said he sees the Lite fundamentally changing the Manchester advertising market.
"The Metro has shown how strong a free version can be and is now selling itself much more nationally rather than regionally, so I think there is an opportunity for those people who can't get into Metro ," he said. With all of the top evening titles suffering a downturn in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations results, Williams believes it won't be long before other regional cities follow suit – creating the sort of impact in the regional evening market that Associated's Metro has in the mornings.
"I can see Glasgow and Birmingham doing something similar," he said. "The whole newspaper market is suffering and anything that will breathe new life into it will help – whether or not they can make money out of it I don't know, but it is a positive move."
The MEN has said that its remaining paid-for editions would be relatively unaffected by the Lite, but Steve Blakeman, managing partner at PHD Manchester, remains unconvinced.
Even so, he believes it will benefit the parent title.
"I'm sure that part of the decision to launch is to protect its main asset, which is the Evening News, and to make sure that no one else comes into themarket to try and take away from that position," he said.
Mick Styles, managing director of Mediaedge:cia Manchester, agreed, adding: "I think the Lite's best chance is as a bolt-on to the main paper. It's less snappy and has more of a local feel than the morning Metro."
Blakeman concurred: "It does exactly what it says on the tin, and consumers are getting an absolute bargain – presumably if it's successful, they will sell this to advertisers in its own right."
However, Blakeman feels it may be early days yet. "If it is restricted to 10,000 copies then it's fairly limited in its appeal to advertisers when you match it against the paid-for, but if the MEN are correct that they are going to reach an untapped audience, then it's going to be attractive to a whole variety of advertisers."