The World: The Times launches into the New York market

Murdoch hopes a New York edition of The Times will help the online version of the paper to prosper.

Newspapers in the US generally are not as good as they think and there is an opportunity there," Robert Thompson, the editor of The Times, says.

As a former US editor of the Financial Times, his is an informed opinion.

It's also a view shared by his boss, Rupert Murdoch, who's betting big on the fallibility of the US media's global coverage, with the launch of The Times in New York and New Jersey last week.

"US newspapers have been running down their international reporting," Thompson says. "That comes at a time when there is still an enormous amount of interest in global affairs in the States."

This is why "The London Times", "The Times of London", or, as we call it on this side of the Atlantic, The Times, has decided to take its first bite out of the Big Apple.

The paper isn't alone in having ambitions in New York. At a conference in Moscow earlier this month, Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of Guardian Newspapers, signalled her plans for the US. These include an expansion of its web readers and, she said: "We are also going to do print."

The Times has stolen a march, though. Although quite how the newspaper will be received in New York remains to be seen.

The logistics seem straightforward - The Times will be run from the News International New York office, home to the group's New York Post title, and will print from its presses.The newspaper will be staffed by nine correspondents, and its coverage won't be a world away from The Times' current continental edition for Europe.

The newspaper won't, Thompson says, be competing with the formidable New York Times (which has a circulation of more than one million nationally and 700,000 in New York) on domestic news; nor will it rival the specialist business news currently provided by the FT.

News International has been increasing its network in Japan, China and recently India, and Thompson hopes that broad global coverage and spread will eventually win the hearts of 10,000 expats, New Yorkers and global citizens.

Yes, that's New Yorkers as well as Brits living Stateside. The financial community of Wall Street and the advertising fraternity of Madison Avenue are in the paper's sights, promising undeniably high-end, affluent eyeballs for advertisers both at home and abroad.

Key to the US launch is the success of the Times website, which to date has 8.8 million unique users, with more than three million of those in North America.

People in the US tend not to be big newspaper readers - they go online for their news. The New York Times, for example, has a national circulation of 1.14 million, but nearly 13 million domestic unique users for, and more than 24 million worldwide. The synergy between the online and paper versions of The Times is crucial to the launch, Paul Hayes, the managing director of Times Newspapers, says.

"About one-third of the impressions we serve on Times Online go to North America. There is clearly a constituency there for us in the US, and a lot of those are east-coast based," Hayes says.

The newspaper already has digital sales representation in the New York Post building, and an independent sales company called World Media sells its indigenous UK advertising to the US market.

But it is not yet clear exactly how the ad package is going to work.

Copy for the UK won't initially be repurposed for the US, so people in New York will be exposed to ads in sterling rather than dollars. Hayes says that will be reviewed depending on the success of the edition, but it's hard to see how News International can monetise the new readers promised in the US without a bespoke advertising offer.

At the time of writing, no US advertisers had invested in the launch, although Hayes says he has meetings arranged with brands.

Larisa Svechin, the director of print operations at ZenithOptimedia, New York, acknowledges that while The Times has good brand awareness in the US, its owners can't take that for granted. "New York is saturated with news-papers," he says. "Nowhere else in the US do we have this many newspapers in one market."

Mike Neiss, the managing director of Universal McCann, warns the New York newspaper market is so crushingly competitive that people already have enough to read.

"Everyone has too much to sift through and another entity to scan might put people over the top. They're not going to start reading The Times as well as The Wall Street Journal," he says.

All of which begs the question: if the website is doing so well and the New York newspaper market is so crowded, why bother launching a print edition? Recent figures show online advertising is set to account for a bigger share of adspend than newspaper ads by the end of the year, anyway.

Why not just run advertising in New York City to drive people to the site?

"They'll come in here with a physical paper for as long as it takes to get the brand recognised out there. The Times is going to skim a worthwhile part of the audience, which is going to make it very viable. The US is clamouring for a more European voice in culture and politics and everything else," Neiss says.

Newspaper advertising still makes more money than online ads. And if newspapers want to build global online brands, launching paper versions in key markets is a sensible first step.

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