Media Headliner: Torpe and Muncaster take aim at City AM target

The former Metro International executives hope to offer City readers "business with personality".

These are exciting times for newspapers. The Guardian's Berliner format launched on Monday, the former Telegraph chief executive Jeremy Deedes is plotting the launch of the daily title The Sportsman and, last week, a freesheet targeted at workers in the City of London launched.

The brainchild of two former Metro International executives, Jens Torpe, the chief executive of the new venture, and Lawson Muncaster, its managing director, City AM looks to deliver "business with personality" to the City's 400,000-odd workers.

Torpe and Muncaster brought the former Sunday Express business editor David Parsley on board as editor and then set up in offices right outside London Bridge station. The team is relatively small, but during its first week managed to get five daily newspapers out without too much strife.

The launch came about because Torpe and Muncaster believe newspapers can become a more targeted medium. Muncaster says: "TV and magazines are very targeted to specific audiences, so all we've done is evolve the free concept to a target audience."

Like Associated Newpapers' Metro, City AM is claiming a young audience - 70 per cent under 40, many of whom are not regular newspaper buyers.

But why not go for a wider audience, like Metro? Torpe says: "We'd have had to compete with Metro and then within 12 months a second title in the afternoon. With two titles we could survive but with three it's difficult."

Torpe is a former TV executive - he ran TV3 broadcasting until he joined Metro International as its chief operating officer, where he helped spearhead its international expansion into 16 new markets. He can claim to have launched more newspapers than anyone else in history - a total that exceeds 30.

The dynamic between Torpe and Muncaster is fascinating. Both are outgoing balls of enthusiasm and energy, but Torpe, much older than Muncaster, is the "daddy" of the two. Danish, he's become fairly naturalised in London, where he has lived since joining Metro in 1997. He followed the Test series avidly, supports Tottenham Hotspur, smokes Marlboro reds and drinks ridiculously strong black coffee almost constantly. Muncaster says of him: "He's the only one in the world who's ever been able to manage me."

Muncaster is the better-known of the two in UK adland. Larger-than-life doesn't do his forceful personality justice - he's a big, opinionated Glaswegian who wears his heart on his sleeve. His newspaper experience comes via a stint as Metro International's vice-president of global sales.

Before that, he was the sales director at Eurosport and CNN.

Torpe says: "Lawson is one of the most well-known faces in London advertising, I'm used to running newspapers and the distribution side - so it's a natural split."

City AM's future was secured when the entrepreneur and former Moscow Times owner Boudewijn Poelmann came on board. Secondary funding in Scotland and Denmark was then secured. Torpe says the emotion of the launch hit home when the pair were in a cab and saw their first reader on the street.

Torpe says: "I'll never forget the picture. It was 6.20 in the morning, there were no cars around and suddenly Lawson shouts out: 'That's our newspaper.'"

Now City AM must win over advertisers. The challenge, Muncaster says, is the conservatism of the UK ad market and justifying City AM's existence in a world demonstrating tangible efficiencies to procurement departments.

He intends to offer advertisers innovation in shapes and formats, and to operate a flexible sales policy tailored to agencies and clients.

"We're humble people," he says. "But we've now delivered a great concept and are bringing new readers to the market while offering an uncluttered environment."

The business plan is to be profitable at some point in year two. Are there any plans for expansion if London is a success? Muncaster says: "This idea can travel across cultural and language barriers, but we want to own it and deliver in London to the best of our ability, so we have to focus on London."

City AM plans to build circulation through its team of 150 hand-distributors, and bins at selected retailers and at London City Airport. It claims to be on target to hit 100,000 by the end of November.

Leaving the office, some of the distribution team have ended their stint and still have a few unread copies to carry with them. A reminder for the City AM team, perhaps, that there's still work to do.

THE LOWDOWN LAWSON MUNCASTER Age: 36 Lives: North Berwick, Scotland Family: Wife Zoe, children Ben, three-and-a-half, Rubyrose, one-and-a-half Most treasured possession: Archerfieldlinks membership Describe yourself in three words: Fat, fun, fast Alternative career: Golf caddie, Royal Dornoch golf club Person you most admire: Mother Theresa Motto: Just do it JENS TORPE Age: 54 Lives: Belsize Park, London Family: Wife Arense, daughter Alexandra Most treasured possession: "Glenten", my delightful old lake boat harboured in the Danish lake district Describe yourself in three words: Fair, focused, fanatical Alternative career: Sports journalist Person you most admire: Too old for idols Motto: Just do it