Standard fought hard in '87 they'll do it again

Hearing Robert Maxwell's voice booming out across the airwaves in a Radio 4 piece on the London newspaper war was a reminder of the earlier battle between two proprietors in the capital.

It was typical Maxwell, dismissing the plan by Lord Rothermere to revive the Evening News as "a joke".

In the end, the joke was on Maxwell when his London Daily News threw in the towel and folded in July 1987 after five months.

The LDN is remembered as a good newspaper with good journalists, handicapped by Maxwell's eccentric decision to turn it into Britain's first 24-hour paper.

Another problem with the LDN was that readers of the Evening Standard proved more loyal to the paper than Maxwell expected, and the Standard also had control of newspaper pitches across London, including one outside the Mirror HQ in Holborn.

The LDN also needed a massive marketing budget to let Londoners know it was available.

That problem won't apply to thelondonpaper, because it will be handed out free, as will Associated's London Lite. The sudden emphasis on free newspapers in London and Manchester — where the Manchester Evening News is now free in the city centre — makes the old Birmingham Daily News, hailed at its launch in 1984 as the first free daily in Europe, look way ahead of its time.

In this week's Press Gazette, thelondonpaper's editor Stefano Hatfield says that everyone has got hung up on the fact his paper is free, rather than whether or not it will be a good product.

It had better be. Hearing Maxwell again was a reminder of the sheer battle of wills that went into the last London newspaper war. What has not changed is that the Standard will fight for its life. It saw off Maxwell and will fight tooth and nail to do the same to thelondonpaper.

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