This month sees a battle royal between the Daily Mail/Northcliffe publishing empire and Murdoch’s over who owns London daily newspaper publishing. This week saw the launch of News International’s thelondonpaper, a new free sheet. The DMGT Evening Standard has put its price up to 50p and launched London Lite as a free sheet a few days ahead of thelondonpaper to try and kill it at birth.
This contest will all come down to money. The biggest ad spender by far in London is Livingstone with his £100 million budget (see previous post). The way he places his spending over the next few months will determine our reading for many years to come.
The Standard is under real threat. Although it is far from being perfect it is at least a real London newspaper with some shreds of journalistic integrity. Both the new freesheets and the Metro (a joint venture with TfL) are just gossip sheets with snippets of news off wire services. The Mayor hates the Standard and has the market power to crush it. Yesterday the Mayor’s TfL put 2 full pages of ads in thelondonpaper and none in the Standard or London Lite. I am sure he welcomes the opportunity to punish the Standard.
The Mayor and TfL have huge market power as customers but are also market participants. TfL has its JV with the Metro. The Londoner is the Mayor’s own £3 million freesheet delivered to all London homes. How can the Standard compete when its main customer wants to publish newspapers at tax payer’s expense and is happy to push advertising to newspapers with no journalists?
The Mayor and TfL should get out of newspaper publishing entirely. The conflict of interests is unacceptable. They also need to stand aside in the current newspaper war and ensure that they do not use their spending power to destroy London’s one real newspaper just so that they can avoid a bit of criticism.
I have today written to the Director of Competition Enforcement at the Office of Fair trading to request that they review the London newspaper market.
See Dan Sabbagh writing in the Times yesterday.