Will the launch of another free London newspaper be viable?

LONDON - Despite the recent closures of free commuter papers London Lite and thelondonpaper, a group of mystery investors has announced plans to enter the fray with The London Weekly next year.

Maybe

Juliet Haygarth, Managing director, Brothers and Sisters

I thought this was a simple question until I started to ponder the bigger issues facing content revenue models.

The US magazine industry has been brought to its knees by its enthusiastic stampede to drop, or abandon, cover prices in the belief that greater circulation and corresponding ad revenues would follow. However, the ads never materialised, leading one industry mogul to announce that the US publishing model is 'dead' and in need of 'total reinvention'.

In the end, it will come down tothe detail behind the commercial operation, as well as the quality of the content.

The London Weekly is planning to provide 'entertainment, light politics, music and sport', which sounds spookily similar to the now defunct London Lite and thelondonpaper.

Given that the latter made a loss of £16.5m in the first year, and the new kids on the block have only £10.5m squirreled away, I hope they have some innovative ideas up their sleeves. 

Maybe

Marc Sands, former marketing director, The Guardian

We have yet to experience a 'generalist' freesheet in London that actually works. The free Evening Standard may do, but it is too early too tell.

The experience of the past decade suggests that the era of 'free' to the reader, yet supported by advertising, is not sustainable. Exactly what is the gap between thelondonpaper and London Lite that The London Weekly plans to exploit, and how commercially viable is it? The aforementioned papers lost their owners a fortune.

The struggle in the next decade will be to ensure that a viable commercial price can be realised for our journalistic endeavours.

The mood of the media industry, led by News International, is to put an end to 'free'. Rupert Murdoch and his senior managers know how to run publishing businesses profitably, and the industry is following their steps very closely.

We are moving into a world where the supply of advertising inventory far exceeds the demand, and, in the end, this can only push down the price of advertising.

No

Sean King, chief executive, Seven Squared

John Wayne said: 'Courage is being scared to death - and saddling up anyway.' It takes a brave man or woman to get into the saddle and launch a freesheet in the wake of the long, bloody battle that annihilated both thelondonpaper and London Lite.

It was a war with no obvious winner. Even the Evening Standard has lost its cover price, as we all have grown used to getting our news for free. As a Londoner, I don't see the need for another freebie to enter the fray.

However, Global Publishing does sound like it has the right idea by focusing on the lighter side of life, rather than trying to compete with 'real' newspapers.

Londoners are already well-served by Mike Soutar's excellent free weekly magazines, Shortlist and Stylist, which seem to be avidly read by affluent young people on their way to and from work. In my humble opinion, these two polished, targeted magazines score over newsprint every time in the print battles of the Wild West End.

Maybe

Martine Ainsworth-Wells, marketing director, VisitLondon

The crucial question here is whether theory can match market reality. In a free market, more than one paper in London makes sense for both customer and advertiser - rates are competitive and quality of content is maintained.

In reality, we have yet to see this happen. Firstly we had the demise of both London Lite and thelondonpaper, and the conversion of the Evening Standard from a paid-for to a free model.

It's questionable whether there is a solid business case for another paper. Do we really need one, or should we face the realities of modern London life? An average Tube journey of 20 minutes can easily be filled by the one paper we have. Frankly, people seem to be more interested in what Demi Moore and Jonathan Ross might have to say about Tiger Woods' car crash on Twitter - it's just more entertaining after a busy day in the office.

Discussion

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