London Evening Newspapers

The battle for London newspapers is really warming up now, with news that to combat News International’s thelondonpaper, Associated my morph the currently free lunchtime Standard Lite into London Lite and extend it’s distribution to take it head to head with the thelondonpaper. Like thelondonpaper, it too is going to be distributed by hand – to keep it at arm’s length from the Standard I guess.
It all takes me back to 1987 when Robert Maxwell launched The London Daily News. As well as wanting to take on the Evening Standard (or The Standard or The New Standard or whatever it was called at the time), he also boldly wanted to make the paper a 24 hour title, meaning that there would be morning, afternoon and evening editions.
Aside from the problem of trying to persuade people to buy a second copy of essentially the same paper on their commute home from work it was quite an interesting and revolutionary idea.
Of course Associated didn’t take things lying down and they “relaunched” the Evening News. The Evening News was a title that had been a separate title until they merged in the 80s and a small “incorporating The Evening News” appeared on the masthead. But on the day Maxwell launched his paper, Associated surprised everyone by relaunching the Evening News as a spoiler. I seem to remember something about Associated putting together a team in secret to produce it. It still came out in the evening, but it helped create confusion in a market that had been saturated with publicity for a new London paper. Associated priced it cheaper than the London Daily News, and for a while a brief pricing war continued with the Maxwell’s title going to down to as little as 10p I think, and Associated’s going to 5p. Even for 1987, these were cheap prices.
Eventually Maxwell’s title folded, and within a week or so, the Evening News closed down too.
There might not be quite the secrecy this time around, although neither News International nor Associated are likely to have revealed their full hands yet, but it seems like we’re in for another round of games. The difference this time is that Associated aren’t taking on the financially precarious Maxwell – was he already robbing his pension funds at this point? Murdoch has deep pockets, and we’re going to see some big hitters coming out to play.
It’s an odd time to play the game with newsprint prices high, and the advertising market being in pretty poor shape. It’s an expensive game.
It’s all going to be really interesting to watch from the sidelines.