Desmond to name new London paper the Evening Mail

LONDON – Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond is to call his planned free London newspaper the Evening Mail and is in talks with retailers about possible distribution for the title.

The name, if correct, will be seen as another challenge to London morning freesheet Metro's publisher Associated Newspapers, which used to publish the Evening News alongside the Evening Standard before scrapping the News.

News of Desmond's planned launch of a London paper emerged last week and was confirmed by a spokesman who said: "Mr Desmond feels that London is a great and diverse city, which has suffered for too long from having a single, monopoly supplier of its own newspapers."

The Evening Mail would compete head to head with Metro and the London Evening Standard, stretching advertising revenue thin.

Desmond is the second media proprietor in the last year to look at launching a London freesheet against Metro. In May, Rupert Murdoch's plans for the £100m launch of a London freesheet were scuppered, after a distribution deal with Railtrack failed to materialise.

It is the distribution issue that will be crucial for the success of any new London newspaper. Associated has a long-term contract with London Underground, ruling out the use of the tube network by any rival.

The move by Express Newspapers, which is publishes the Daily Express and the Daily Star, comes as renewed speculation surfaces that Associated is examining the idea of an afternoon edition of the Metro, sparking a possible free newspaper war.

As well as London, the Metro brand is currently distributed in Manchester, Durham, the Midlands, Yorkshire and parts of Scotland.

The last time there was a newspaper battle in London was back in the 1980s, when Robert Maxwell tried to launch a 24-hour newspaper, the London Daily News.

To combat this threat, Associated temporarily bought back the Evening News, which it sold at a knockdown price. The Evening News was closed again as soon as Maxwell admitted defeat.

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