Tuesday, September 05, 2006

thelondonpaper v London Lite

Monday saw the launch of a new London free afternoon paper - thelondonpaper, hot on the heels of the launch two weeks ago of London Lite. Yesterday I read both papers. I did the same thing today. I found it interesting that each tried at the same time to be different yet fill the same market gap. Both are free, handed out in the street (as neither has won a tender to exclusively handout papers (Metro style) at the tube stations) and feature purple in the banner lines. thelondonpaper is slightly smaller, more akin to the Guardian but with a larger reference to the sport pages; London Lite is reminiscent of its sister paper, the Metro. Lite makes much of the fact that it was free and first, with 'free' imprinted on the top left hand corner and marching across the top middle; the cover features a light weight picture (Eva Longoria in a bikini) in addition to a large headline, a small portion of text and some taster lines of inside articles. It's overall look screams 'tabloid'.

Of course, both carry much of the same type of news albeit packaged slightly differently. That is to be expected as both papers feature local and some national news. Both headlines refer to the same topic but inside the articles are portrayed rather differently. Lite in many ways is what it says; there is a good deal of snippets of celebrity behaviour, parties, premiers and the like. There also appears to be some tabloid style scaremongering and generalisation: an article concerning a disposable hospital gown designed for Muslim women (it allows them to completely cover up) is published underneath a large headline Muslims feared on the Tube since 7/7 . Intended for the article next to the hospital gowns, but reinforcing some kind of opinion on both Muslim fear and lack of faith in the NHS - as the article concludes that no doubt these gowns will be unaffordable due to the crippling debts with which the NHS is struggling. thelondonpaper relegates the gown issue to page 15, granting it 2 sentences. No mention of cost and certainly no large photo. Not that thelondonpaper is without criticism - much of the 'lighter' issues have already been written, better, elsewhere. I was particularly unimpressed by the double page feature on pole dancing exercise classes, not least because the woman taking the lesson was large with bad shoes. In general the writing is rather sloppy and brief does not have to mean insubstantial.

It seems rather a shame that such potential has not been fulfilled. Given that both papers claim to relate to London, leaving aside the listings and celebrity gossip, much of the news is not really about London. The vast majority of the sport is related to a national scale - surely room for a page or two on the thriving sports scene across London. These papers are clearly aimed at the working Londoner; someone who likes their news bite-sized, up-to-date, celebrity ridden and free. In a society when people can download worldwide, quality, up-to-the-minute news to their work PC whenever they want to read it, any paper that wishes to compete is going to have to produce something better than I have read over the last two days.

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