The London newspaper war kicks off

Thelondonpaper and London Lite battle it out on the capital's streets, while the Evening Standard awaits the inevitable decline.

London's freesheet battle began in earnest on Monday with both News International's thelondonpaper and Associated Newspapers' London Lite splashing with stories on the death of Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin.

News International had some early teething problems with the distribution, including a half-hour period when distributors at Euston Station ran out of copies. Thelondonpaper's website also failed to launch on time but was live by 7.30pm on Monday, three hours later than planned.

News International's title launched with advertisers including T-Mobile, Fiat, BT and ntl:telewest. Its back page carried an ad for the Monty Python musical, Spamalot. London Lite's back page was booked by American Express.

Sources said it was too early to judge the impact of the freesheet war on sales of the Evening Standard. Some expect it to lose as much as a third of its circulation.

THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY PASSES JUDGMENT

- RICHARD WARREN - DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY, DELANEY LUND KNOX WARREN & PARTNERS

The Standard offers everything a good newspaper does - breaking news stories, a proper business section and star columnists. In readership terms, I don't think either of the new papers is a threat to the Standard. In advertising terms they might be, which is why, given the stickiness of the readers, putting the cover price up to 50p was a shrewd move.

Of the two freesheets, I preferred the londonpaper. It felt more modern, more considered and had more of a sense of its target market.

London Lite felt more scrappy and cramped, with a lot of editorial "borrowed" from the Standard. My instinct is that this has been put together in a hurry as a spoiler, without the planning required to work out what young non-newspaper readers are looking for.

thelondonpaper: Like

London Lite: Dislike

- KELLY HARROLD, HEAD OF PRESS, ZENITHOPTIMEDIA

Londoners were hit with three headlines in their afternoon papers on 4 September - "Croc man killed by stingray", "The Croc Hunter is killed by a fish" and "First womb transplants" - which headline belonged to which paper?

I think we would all guess the last was from the Standard. Which papers the others belonged to is more difficult to decide. London Lite is more sensationalist and thelondonpaper more urban. It is the differentiating factors that will be key to the success of all three papers.

Growth in the London newspaper market is a step forward. Advertisers can access the hard-to-reach younger audience. Consumers can access free editorial for their journey home.

People's lives are busier than ever but give them what they want, when they want it, and they will consume it.

thelondonpaper: No preference

London Lite: No preference

- TOM MORTON, HEAD OF PLANNING, TBWA\LONDON

I think thelondonpaper is the early winner in the battle of the evening reads.

It's easy on the eye - more like Grazia or the Berliner Guardian. Design creates a more distinctive positioning for thelondonpaper, which matters when readers have to make an active choice between the papers' rival distributors.

By contrast, London Lite is still attached to traditional newspaper behaviour. The stories felt cut and culled from a main paper, rather than prepared especially for the new format. The public don't care that Associated Newspapers is defending the Standard - London Lite feels like a budget option. And its editorial line reflected that of the Daily Mail and the Standard, criticising women, running scare stories and featuring Elizabeth Hurley.

thelondonpaper: Like

London Lite: Dislike

- SIMON HINDE, DIRECTOR OF DAY TEAM AND WELCOME SCREENS, AOL

Thelondonpaper is slick and impressive. It has thought about its readership and put together a young, colourful, upbeat package.

It has learned some lessons from websites. The news is short and functional, pictures are allowed to tell stories, and there are fact boxes and bite-sized chunks of information throughout. There's a lot going on, but the design is cool and well-paced.

Like Metro, thelondonpaper has thought about what a paper needs to be to prosper in the digital age. It looks modern, nimble and relevant and makes the Standard look even more bloated and suburban by contrast.

London Lite, however, is just a spoiler, a condensed version of the Standard with a bit of agency copy thrown in. It looks cramped, nasty and cheap. It's clearly a rush job and unless it changes radically I can't see it surviving.

thelondonpaper: Like

London Lite: Dislike

THE VIEW FROM THE STREET

- ANDREW SMITH, 28, ACCOUNTANT

I don't normally take one as I expect them to be rubbish as they're free. I normally buy The Independent to pass the time on the way home. I would definitely never pick up London Lite as it has a vendetta against my football club, QPR. We call it the Sub Standard. It gets everything wrong about QPR and has it in for the chairman.

London Lite: Dislike

- ROBYN REID, 24, OFFICE WORKER

I picked up thelondonpaper in Holborn from a street vendor. I've also got London Lite. There's not much between them. I don't buy paid-for newspapers and I normally read Metro. I would pick up both new papers again and take them home for a better read. I don't mind which - whichever one I can get my hands on.

- MARK WOODTHORPE-SMITH, 28, RISK CONSULTANT

I got both papers from vendors outside Moorgate station. I preferred thelondonpaper. I was aware of both from internet news websites. I would still purchase the Standard on certain days, for example, for the Homes & Property section. I like having the choice of free papers and wouldn't consider there to be too many as long as they are all produced from sustainable resources. London Lite looks like a freebie, and thelondonpaper looks like a publication you might actually pay money for. They're not too lowbrow; you would expect to pay money for a more detailed read. It's nice to have an entertaining "light" read on the way home from work.

thelondonpaper: Like

- CAMILLA MCLEAN, 29, PR CONSULTANT

London Lite was handed to me - I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. I knew they were introducing a new paper to compete with the Standard. It looks quite like a regional, trashy paper. I would still buy the Standard in preference to London Lite. I find if I've paid for a paper then I'm more likely to read it and I also know it's going to cover news that hasn't been in the morning papers.

Evening Standard: Like

- JESSICA STEVENS, 39, LITERARY AGENT

There's a really good layout on the front cover of thelondonpaper. I like the typeface and the colour-coded sections direct you around the paper easily. You're not bombarded by the amount of different stories. The paper isn't too busy, the advertising is fairly unobtrusive, which is surprising, as you'd expect there to be a lot of it, this being a free paper. It feels quite like a magazine.

I don't feel bombarded by the number of freesheets there are now, although the widened choice still won't stop me buying the Standard. I rely on and trust the Standard's intelligent reporting, although perhaps thelondonpaper is an occasional lighter alternative.

thelondonpaper: Like.

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