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London’s New Freesheet Has £10.5 Million Investment, But Is It Enough?

Thought print was on the way out? Not for some: Global Publishing Group has raised £10.5 million to fund its forthcoming freesheet The London Weekly, which will hit tube stations and street corners in February (via Brand Republic).

A website is now online at thelondonweekly.co.uk and will “go live” on December 20, followed by an online radio station.

That money sounds like a lot, but in the costly, competitive business of physical newspapers, it isn’t. The title says it will distribute 250,000 copies a day and – after office, staff, distribution, news agency costs and that all-important marketing spend – £10.5 million doesn’t last very long at all…

News International’s now closed thelondonpaper lost £16.5 million in its first year. It might only be the London Evening Standard to compete with, but here’s why a new London freebie will struggle in the capital.

— It needs more money. As Lawson Muncaster, MD of the profitable London freesheet City AM, so aptly put it (via guardian.co.uk): “DMGT and News International spent £70m between them (on thelondonpaper and London Lite in two and a half years and didn’t make a profit.” Both titles shut down this year.

— Can it control costs? London Evening Standard proprietor Alexander Lebedev said he would invest £25 million in the title over three years. But that was before the paper cut its early edition and axed 20 staff, partly to save on costs, which illustrated how optimistic Lebedev’s plan was. There is one cost-saving measure, however: the company says one third of content will come from readers.

— Is there an ad market for freesheets? Britain’s biggest free paper, DMGT’s money-making Metro, is evidence that a mass market ad-funded title can work. But even it isn’t immune from the short-term recession and the long-term advertiser shift away from print and it cut 30 regional jobs in August. The London Weekly is aping the Metro‘s diet of entertainment and gossip content, but whether it can emulate its commercial success is a big if.

— It needs to make money online. Both killed-off evening London freebies — and, to an extent, the Standard — treated their websites as clearing houses for the print edition, or at best a marketing tool. Will the Weeky‘s site be updated throughout the week and get specific commercial attention, or like so many weekly papers tell readers to “check out the paper this week to read more”?