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thelondonpaper presages a battle of the freesheets

News International’s decision to launch a free afternoon newspaper in London presages a newspaper war in the capital which could spread to other cities. Associated Newspapers which owns the paid-for Evening Standard already distributes nearly 80,000 copies of a free lite edition at lunchtime. It also owns the free morning Metro.

Thelondonpaper, confirmed by NI yesterday, will launch on September 18 and use 700 people to handout a print run of 400,000 between 4.30pm and 7.30pm in central London and Canary Wharf, according to the Press Gazette. Associated is unlikely to take this threat to Standard during its peak sales time without a strong reaction.

NI’s decision pre-empts the tendering which is taking place for the right to distribute from bins at railway and tube stations in the afternoon. Associated uses this method for Metro distribution. But CityAM has already proved that distribution in London can be successful without this right, handing out the business paper near tube stations.

With two wealthy companies in the afternoon battle there will be speculation about the tube distribution contract and possible rival launches. A comment from Ian Clark, News International’s free newspapers general manager, to Media Week for Brand Republic, suggests they have not ruled out a tube and rail deal. Clark is quoted as saying thelondonpaper will not depend on those contracts.

The battle may spread outside London to other cities where Associated distributes Metro. Media Week says NI’s strategy will be to prove thelodonpaper and then expand into other cities. Clark is quoted as saying: “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].”

Metro New York launch editor Stefano Hatfield will edit the new paper.

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