London Weekly freesheet launches in the capital

LONDON - The London Weekly, Global Publishing Group's city-centric newspaper, has launched in the capital today amid a barrage of criticism from the media industry.

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The tagline of the new free weekly newspaper positions itself as "the light hearted paper for light hearted Londoners".

The full-colour title is 32 pages, less than half the size of today's 76 page Metro, and leads with a splash about Prime Minister Gordon Brown helping to launch London Wasps' annual St George's Day game.

The main story follows the unusual format of being continued on the inside back page of the newspaper.

Page three is reserved for a half page Q&A-style interview about quitting smoking with former England cricketer Phil Tufnell, which the paper signposts on its front cover as an exclusive with "Phil Tufnel" [sic].

Other sectors promoted on the front cover include Music News, Going Out and Sports Round up.

Launch advertisers include a page of classified recruitment ads, promotions for West End shows Wicked and Thriller, and display ads for SeaFrance, The Big Snow Festival and Southern Comfort.

An in-house ad taking up the whole of page 18 also suggests plans to launch property listings are also in motion.

There is a commercial partnership between The London Weekly and Packard Bell resulting in a half page ad on page 27.

The double-dated front cover confirms plans to distribute the newspaper in London on both Friday and Saturday.

The newspaper is claiming its distribution will reach 250,000 and a readership of more than 1.5 million, although it proved elusive to all but the most determined reader in central London today.

Copies were being handed out at a selection of underground and mainline stations in zones one and two.

John Leitch, executive director of Metro, was unable to find a copy and said: "The fact that it's so hard to get hold of speaks volumes and makes for an interesting business proposition."

Neil Jones, commercial director of News International, also had yet to see a copy but noted: "If News International and Associated were unable to crack the tricky free London market then I'm not sure if anyone can. But I wish the team over at London Weekly every success."

Scott Moorhead, associate director of investment at media agency Starcom Mediavest, had also failed to get his hands on a copy but admitted the pages he had seen pictures of "look a bit amateurish". 

He added: "If you are going to launch a paper for London then they went the wrong way about it. There should have been presentations to media agencies [responsible for planning and buying the bulk of print ads] before launch.

"They also face the problem of distributing on Fridays and Saturdays, which are two very different audiences."

Vanessa Clifford, managing partner at Mindshare, did manage to get hold of a copy along the Strand at around 9am this morning, but had not been overly impressed.

"Some people say it looks like it has been put together by university students," she said. "I think that is being cruel to university students. It looks like a bit of a joke. I don't think it will have a long life span."

Interestingly, the newspaper's flannel panel - details of its editorial team - does not carry any telephone numbers but lists 14 names. The roles of both managing editor and deputy managing editor appear to be unfilled at present.

It is not known how many copies GPG is intending to distribute today and tomorrow or where they will be available.

No one from the publishing group was available for comment.

View images of The London Weekly pages here.


The London Weekly story so far...

5 February: The London Weekly arrives - and it is shocking

22 January 2010: The London Weekly 5 February launch date revealed to scepticism - this was followed five days later by The Guardian.

17 December 2009: The London Weekly prepares for online launch

8 December 2009: The pre-launch marketing campaign that never was

8 December 2009: Marketers debate the viability of The London Weekly

2 December 2009: The London Weekly raises £5.5m launch funding

1 December 2009: Ambitions of The London Weekly revealed

30 November 2009: Plans for The London Weekly, a new weekly freesheet for the capital, are revealed