New London paper to spark autumn battle

News International has revealed that its free London afternoon paper, launching on 18 September, is a blueprint for a national strategy that could see it take on Metro with regional editions in metropolitan centres.

The new paper, titled thelondonpaper, will debut with hand distribution of between 300,000 and 400,000 copies outside commuter points in the capital, setting up an autumn battle with the paid-for Evening Standard.

However, News International Free Newspapers general manager Ian Clark told Media Week that NI also has another Associated Newspapers' title in its sights, the morning free paper, Metro. Once thelondonpaper had proved itself, the strategy is to expand into other cities with regional editions. "While we will initially focus on London, we have looked at what has happened with Metro nationally and are flexible enough to take the plan out (into other regions)," said Clark. It is reported that Metro expects to make £10m profit this year.

NI has decided to pre-empt decisions on the awards of distribution contracts in London Tube and mainline stations and get into the market first, hoping to establish a readership habit and ward off the threat from possible rival launches. Clark said the strategy for thelondonpaper did not depend on those contracts.

He added that the paper would appeal to young, upmarket Londoners, providing "exactly what advertisers want", indicating that it will aim at the Standard's Achilles heel. The latter has been criticised for focusing too much on older, suburban commuters.

Metro New York launch editor Stefano Hatfield will edit the paper. The latest recruit to the ad team is Kat Burr, another defector from the Evening Standard, who will run entertainment sales. Other ex-Standard staffers to join the paper include ad director Michael Craig and senior sales executive Kate Gardner.

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