Thursday, August 31, 2006

The battle for London

I gather, from the nice man handing me a free paper this evening, that there's a newspaper war going on in London.

Rumours of a new free paper from the Express Group have been around for as long as I can remember and now the Sun is supposed to be joining the fray, though I have yet to see either. So the group that brings you the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and the Metro have hit back at this spectre with London Lite. It seems to be a bid to rescue the thisislondon group of websites before the freebie papers destroy its sister Standard, but entertainingly, as there is no sign of the other papers yet, they are doing a good job of this by themselves. The usual Standard sellers at Euston are looking a little glum, since all the people who wanted a Standard have been given this Lite version instead. I also like the way that it sells itself with the news that Londoners don't have time to read (ie the long, boring features in the Standard) so they'll keep their content nice and snappy. Much like the Metro, which is now reprinting most of the Lite's stories the next morning, while the Mail takes the remaining ones. So if you do pick up the Lite each evening, Metro will only be worth reading for the implausible animal stories. I wonder how long it'll be before Lite steals them as well.

I'm quite happy for newspaper groups I don't like to regale me with free reading material, even if it is very boring. I can't criticise all their interactivity and links to YOUR website, because I've been pushing exactly the same strategy at The Friend for the last 18 months, even if we resist the urge to SHOUT. I feel rather sorry for whoever it is who is having to rehash articles for at least 3 different puiblications in snappy, scaremongering or straight style as demanded, but that's just a perk of working for Associated Newspapers, along with the guilt and fear and, i gather, quite good pay for your 24-hour workday.

If the Express and Sun groups take the same path, printing like fiends until they can no longer afford to exist, you won't find me trying to stop them. This desperate grasping for the last dregs of our attention (and more importantly that of the advertisers) will only last so long before we finally say farewell to the twitching remains of the paid-for British newspaper industry and its utterly outdated treatment of the people formerly known as the audience. That's not my phrase by the way, I stole it off some other website and will do so again, given half the chance.

Interestingly, if indeed you are, I suspect the Metro will probably live on because unlike the Lite (which is really quite unreadable, I found while writing this post), it has actually cracked the secrets of creating community and presenting news neutrally (it essentially lifts stories from the Press Association). It has years on these new freebies and, most importantly, it has animal stories.