First Shots Fired in London Newspaper War Rivals Ready to Act as Associated Newspapers Nears Launch Date of Free Daily Tabloid. Hilary Clarke Reports

By Clarke, Hilary | The Independent (London, England), January 24, 1999 | Go to article overview
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First Shots Fired in London Newspaper War Rivals Ready to Act as Associated Newspapers Nears Launch Date of Free Daily Tabloid. Hilary Clarke Reports


Clarke, Hilary, The Independent (London, England)


WORK has begun in earnest on London Metro, the new title of Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. Journalists started arriving at the paper's offices this week and advertisers have been treated to a series of glossy presentations. Marketed as "the print equivalent of a double espresso", Metro could spark a newspaper war in the capital.

With a print run of 350,000, London Metro will be free and aimed at commuters - most of whom, according to Associated Newspapers' research, are an advertiser's dream. More than half of the people who squeeze into the Tube every morning are between 20 and 34, most earn more than pounds 25,000 and over 60 per cent own, or are in the process of buying, their own home.

The paper will be distributed from 1,000 racks across the Underground. Advertising sources say Associated Newspapers is also negotiating to have the paper distributed on the bus network. Associated Newspapers executives are expecting the title, which is to be launched on 9 March, to make a small loss this year and a small profit next. The question some industry commentators are asking, though, is why launch a newspaper just as the economy is going into a downturn and corporate advertising budgets are showing the first signs of cuts? "You don't launch just as advertising is slowing down, unless you are being pressurised by competitors," said Lorna Tilbian, an analyst with WestLB Panmure. "It's a clever move and also a defensive one. It {London Metro} will steal some sales from the Evening Standard and they want to make sure what they lose will go to the Metro and not someone else." The Evening Standard has a current monopoly in London but News International seems likely to launch its own free London daily title this year. While News International headquarters in Wapping is declining to comment, The Times - a News International newspaper - says that a new title is on the cards and a dummy is being put together. Modern Times Group, the Swedish company that launched a free morning newspaper in Stockholm and now also owns titles in Prague and Budapest, is also declining to say whether it is planning to introduce its own London title. A London newspaper war will echo what happened 10 years ago when Robert Maxwell launched the London Daily News and the late Lord Rothermere, the proprietor of the Evening Standard, revived the London Evening News as a spoiler - a newspaper it gave away free.

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