A battle of style against substance

When London Lite and thelondonpaper launched six months ago, they each proposed to attract the lucrative advertising market of young professionals who don't traditionally buy newspapers. Since then, thelondonpaper has matured into an elegantly designed offering. 

The front page sets the tone — it is about clean lines, clear signposting to sections and an emphasis on local London news.

By contrast, London Lite's front page, which points out it is free, promises frothy showbiz stories and a more sensationalist approach to news. The clunky design is a nod to a brash, showy, in-your-face tabloid.

That said, the news story count of both papers is pretty equal — 29 stories, including briefs, in thelondonpaper and 26 in London Lite.

But London Lite is confused. I had to really search out the news and much of this is down to the design — or lack of coherent design.

News stories coalesce with feature tit-bits and arts reviews. There is no section organisation, so it is hard to work out where news ends and features begin. And the London audience seems to be remembered only as an after-thought (bar the odd "drink tonight in Hampstead" and "must go roller-skating in Brixton").

The city and finance briefing page is hardly worth mentioning — strange for a paper that shares the journalistic resources of its sister publications.

Yet in other areas, strengths are precisely those that you would expect from an Associated product. The style page (borrowed from Daily Mail Weekend) explains how to get a designer outfit on the cheap. It is a nod to glossy magazines and is a perfect commuter read.

Similarly, the food pages hit the mark — packed full of tips about what to drink, what to buy and what to cook. The quality of journalism in London Lite is high, helping the paper to a triumph of substance over style.

Thelondonpaper is clear about its audience (urbanites, Londoners, young people) and it is confident about its order of news stories. There are some clever design touches such as the formation of email addresses from bylines and the labelling of pages, sections and columns by colour coding.

And there are stylish editorial touches such as "what the other papers say" in both sport and news — a vital tool for a freesheet. The paper is neck and neck with London Lite in terms of its sports coverage but streets ahead in terms of display.

But thelondonpaper loses out when it comes to features. The londonnightout and thelondonstyle have a conservative feel and lack any punch — though the pet of the day is a weirdly compulsive read. In all, thelondonpaper is not a patch on its competitor when it comes to feature content.

Marry the content of London Lite with the look and design of thelondonpaper and you have the perfect match.

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