A property newspaper war has broken out in North London with a former executive of the Hampstead & Highgate Express starting up a free title undercutting the rates of her old paper, which has retaliated by launching its own free Sunday property paper.
Eve Atkins, who until June was the publishing director of the Ham&High, launched Avenues, a 40-page, full-colour weekly on 13 September. And as predicted (Press Gazette, 10 August), Ham&High owner CML launched a separate property free, Homes Extra, last Sunday.
Atkins left CML after what she describes as a disagreement on the future direction of the company.
She has since set up Touchstone Publications, operating out of Belsize Road, NW6, and poached Ham&High production manager Paul Creasey for her small team.
Avenues, which has editorial on property and DIY, has a print run of 37,000 and is printed in Cumbria by CN Newspapers. It is distributed in Highgate, Camden Town, Kentish Town, Muswell Hill, St John’s Wood, Hornsey and Hampstead, including Belsize Park and Primrose Hill.
It is an area also served by the Camden New Journal, which has its own property supplement, but Atkins was firm that Avenues was not aiming at community news.
She said her company was backed by private investors. "I’ve got some big money behind me," she said.
Atkins has taken on a big group before, launching the free weekly Dacorum Independent in Hertfordshire against Johnston Press in 1998, but it folded in 1999. "I do like being my own man. I have an entrepreneurial streak in me and it won’t go away," she said. "Avenues is a good-quality property newspaper, printed on enhanced quality paper.
"I realised that it was very possible to launch a rival to the Ham&High because there wasn’t really an alternative weekly property medium around for advertisers. I decided to launch a credible alternative.
"It’s not just about undercutting rates. We are trying to offer something different, something better, as well as something that is very competitive. I believe there’s room in any marketplace for two – it keeps everyone on their toes."
Some of the copies of Avenues can be picked up at large supermarkets and others go directly through letterboxes.
At CML, Atkins also worked at the Herts Advertiser and the Hitchin Comet.
CML’s Homes Extra has 24 pages. The company’s regional director for Herts and London, Garry Matthews, was unavailable for comment.
By Jean Morgan