Thursday, August 10, 2006

London free for all

Finally a newspaper war, phew. I'm quite looking forward to the launch of News International's thelondonpaper and the bust-up that will ensue with Evening Standard and Metro publisher Associated.

I stopped picking up copies of the Metro ages ago. I know it's free, but I don't think a lot of it. Maybe because it is what some call a "subs" newspaper, it doesn't employ many journalists and it shows. As a digest of news from here and there it is sufficient, but I want more. I know, how greedy am I.

I want more in the sense that I've long thought the Evening Standard and its editor, Veronica Wadley, a waste of space and a disservice to Londoners.

It's a great city with a less than great newspaper. Sometimes it doesn't even know it’s a London paper. The clue is when you look at the front page and there is some piece of national news unrelated to London like it’s a pretend national. It happens all the time.

Estimates are that Associated Newspapers is prepared to lose 100,000 daily sales as it takes on News International. That would see it with sales of around 200,000. Ouch.

It could be even more. According to Campaign this morning, insiders at the Standard said it plans to raise its cover price by 10p to 50p and move the title upmarket in reaction to arrival of thelondonpaper, which hits the streets on September 18.

Putting the price up and going up market? Panic on the streets of London as the Moz father might have it.

There will in its grittier place be London Lite (working title, hopefully), which will replace the lunchtime freesheet Standard Lite.

It all sort of echoes what Associated did in the late 1980s when it took on Robert Maxwell and his London Daily News.

Twenty years ago Associated brought the Evening News back to life to unsettle Maxwell's plans and it worked.

This time it is a different more volatile game. The market has moved on and unlike 20 years ago most of the newspapers in the battle are free.

Rupert Murdoch isn't going to scare as easily as Maxwell did. He will be in the game until the end. Lord Rothermere will have to dig deep in those pockets as he fights back against News International.

It will be exciting to see how the rival editors do and the ideas they have: Stefano Hatfield at News International and Associated’s Martin Clark, the Scottish and Irish Daily Mail veteran, who launched Standard Lite.

What that all means for the Standard is unclear, but unless Wadley has some very good ideas the paper is likely to find itself squeezed in a vice by her new sibling rival London Lite and thelondonpaper.


At 3:32 PM, Blogger Stephen Newton said...

The Standard's always been a pretend national. It's usually listed in press directories as a national, as it wouldn't do to list it with alongside provincial offerings.


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