What price now a future for the London Lite?

In little over two weeks thelondonpaper is expected to cease publication.

The announcement last month that News International was closing its weekday freesheet because it had ‘fallen short of expectations’led many to assume Associated Newspapers would quickly follow suit and close its loss-making London Lite.

The expected date for thelondonpaper to wave its goodbyes is 18 September.

When it goes it will leave London Lite distributors to plough a lone furrow each weekday outside increasingly windswept and rainy tube stations entrances. But just how long that will be for is the question on the lips of newspaper executives across the capital.

London Lite launched, after a hurried evolution, just days ahead of thelondonpaper in September 2006.

But wasn’t that just to limit the impact Rupert Murdoch’s freesheet had on Associated’s other stable of newspapers?

If so – and after losing millions of pounds – its mission is complete.

Despite this, the noises coming – unofficially – from Associated Newspapers over the last week have been resolute. Perhaps predictably, they are saying that Lite has the staying power to go it alone.

But in a diluted form, surely? Drop the circulation, drop the locations at which it will distribute to cut costs?

No. It’s unlikely that will happen, the sources say. The one concession to the departure of the thelondonpaper might be a tightening of the period in the late afternoon over which it is distributed.

But it’s not just internal spin which suggests it could have a future. Media analysts say closure is far from a certainty and sound reasons exist for it to remain open.

Paul Richards, analyst with Numis Securities, told Press Gazette the arguments for Associated’s parent company, Daily Mail & General Trust, closing the title now it had fought off the News International threat were countered by the possibility that London Lite could make a considered solo run at the afternoon market.

It’s likely to be a long run. Associated executives said earlier this year the paper wouldn’t break into profit for four more years and it’s unlikely the freesheet will see much uplift as a result of advertisers coming to it from its soon-to-be defunct rival.

A second leading media analyst told Press Gazette since DMGT had unburdened itself from having to protect the Evening Standard from News International it now had a viable afternoon product.

The added bonus, he said, was that DMGT’s morning freesheet Metro now looks say from a News International challenge for the right to distribute newspapers on the London Underground.

That Rebekah Brookes (nee Wade), the new chief executive of News International, is believed to be a staunch opponent of free papers simply adds grist to London Lite’s mill.

The stumbling block, the analyst added, would be the increasingly aggressive and short-term outlook the board of DMGT now took.

‘The old approach was to sit on loss making businesses seemingly forever,’the analyst said. ‘They are not that tolerant now and demand quicker results.”

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