The Guardian reports on an interesting development in the freesheet market in London as News International/NewsCorp prepares to launch ‘the London Paper’, a free daily paper with a slight edge; it’s an afternoon/evening publication.
NewsCorp has been slow on the scene in the Freesheet market with Associated Newspapers taking the majority of the market so far; it currently owns the UK Metro editions and also publishes Standard Lite; a freesheet version of its Evening Standard publication, a tactic a kin to the publication of Herald AM in Ireland.
Interestingly the Standard Lite is only distributed until 2:30 PM, this is obviously so it does not hinder sales of the Evening Standard. The upcoming London Paper title will be distributed from 4:30 to 7:30 PM, putting itself head-to-head with the Associated Newspapers paid-for publication and right in line for the home-time rush hour market. According to the Guardian article there is a tender process ongoing amonst the London public transport agencies for an afternoon publication, something that News International may bypass. Theoretically this means that there could be two Evening newspapers on the scene in London by the end of the year; The London Paper which will be distributed outside tube stations and another that will be distributed within.
It is possible but unlikely that Associated Newspapers will bid for the London Underground afternoon/evening paper tender as it would only lead to a further erosion of its Evening Standard readership.
Putting all of this in an Irish context this could be the catalyst to a similar incident in the Dublin market. Currently Metro Ireland and Herald AM both distribute early in the morning to gain the readership of the commuter audience; by home-time rush hour most copies of both papers are only available on empty bus seats and Independent News & Media has an invested interest in not allowing its freesheet publication to overlap onto its paid-for paper’s time-zone.
Should News International’s push prove a success we may see an afternoon/evening paper on the market very quickly, especially if Herald AM and/or Metro start to prove their worth in the near future. Potential suitors for such a publication could include any media group or company; Metro (owned by Associated Newspapers and The Irish Times Ltd.) is probably in the best position as it could simply update its morning paper with an evening edition. TCH could also make a move onto the Dublin freesheet market; while it is generally a Cork-centric media group any freesheet offering there could hinder its existing publications; The Evening Echo is owned by TCH and The Examiner takes 1/4 of the Munster market; one of the biggest players in the region and in Cork itself. Dublin on the other hand is a less successful patch for the group with The Examiner taking less than 1% in the last JNRS figures; while that is generally considered bad news for TCH it can also be looked at as a huge market left to win over. Tying a free evening paper to a paid-for morning publication could even help The Examiner in the capital (even though it is a backwards marketing tactic compared to Herald AM and the Evening Herald)
Outside of Irish interests The Guardian Group could even mount a challenge; it’s interest in the sale of Myhome.ie shows that they consider Ireland to be a fertile market, although that group has been more keen on shaping its digital publications rather than bogging itself down more and more with an old-fashioned print model. Last but not least there is always News International; they could do the same as Associated and transport their successful model from the UK to Ireland to create “The Dublin Paper” down the line.
Regardless of what company takes the plunge (and if one does it’s unlikely to be IN&M) there is a potentially great opportunity for the expansion of the freesheet market in Dublin and like Herald AM and Metro have dinted tabloid dailies any afternoon/evening freebie would certainly pose a huge threat to its Evening rival.
The Evening Herald has had plenty of attacks in recent times with The (Irish) Daily Mail and morning freesheets; even The Irish Independent is encroaching on the market of the age-old daily, could this be the final nail in it’s coffin?
Who knows, maybe even The Irish Press plc. will come back from obscurity to get revenge on its once bitter rival.
(just to note News International currently has a hold of thelondonpaper.co.uk in preperation for its impending launch; no site is currently live there however)