A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
It's been hard in recent days to move for articles which predict the end of newspapers altogether. (Monday's Magazine story In future, will all newspapers be free? was a novel twist on this trend.) So amid all this gloom, it's puzzling to note that 10 years ago our capital city had just one newspaper, the Evening Standard. As of yesterday, it has four (five, counting City AM). And people say life in the UK isn't as good as it used to be.
So what to make of the new entrant to the market, called (in lower case text with no spaces) thelondonpaper. It's Mr Murdoch's new toy. Lord Rothermere, the gaffer in these parts as far as local papers is concerned, isn't too impressed and so last week launched London Lite. The lord's tactic is simple - and is the same one his late father used with pinpoint accuracy against the late Robert Maxwell in an earlier battle: namely, launch a competitor to the new entrant, confuse the readers, let the Standard stay out of the fray, above it all, and hope that enough people stick to their established purchasing habits and that it will all be over by Christmas.
But Mr Murdoch's reserves of cash and cunning are deeper than Mr Maxwell's, so this battle is beginning to feel like an epic struggle brewing. Less Murdoch, you might say, and more Mordor.
So what will make the difference? Purists might like to look for subtle shades of styles of reporting, but Paper Monitor suspects it will come down to two things - in the main, how effectively can the armies of newspaper distributors be marshalled to hand out free copies (if this battle goes on for long, we might see newspaper barons become passionate advocates of mass immigration of cheap labour). But the style of the paper will also count.
And on that score there are a few things to note:
1. Isn't it odd that both thelondonpaper and London Lite have chosen purple as their colours? Rat-like cunning or coincidence? Either way it reminds Paper Monitor of a 6th form economics lesson about how competing ice cream sellers will make most cash by selling the same things in the same place.
2. Calling it thelondonpaper makes it feel something like a student rag, but does have the virtue of a youthful feel, and almost sounds like the name of a website before it's even started. While Metro has spread around the country, calling it thelondonpaper will make it harder to pull off the same trick.
3. Lite is an odd name too, especially for a newspaper group which one associates with the kind of Middle England which tuts at such Americanisms. (See The meaning of lite.) If the message that gets across is that free newspapers are essentially throwaway items, Lord Rothermere will probably not be upset.
4. London Lite claims to be "London's first and original free afternoon paper". That's a bit much, considering it launched last Thursday.
5. London Lite's front page attractions are Liz Hurley, cellulite, listings and an Argentinean striker. thelondonpaper's draws are Pete Doherty, Armando Iannucci, Basement Jaxx and coffee. Paper Monitor is not typical in these matters, but if it had to it would probably choose for the latter.
6. Lite has a good tabloid newsy feel to it. thelondonpaper feels a bit cooler, and more like a magazine.
7. The death of Steve Irwin will have saddened many. But probably not in the newsrooms - always rather strange places - which must have buzzed when they heard it. "CROC MAN KILLED BY STINGRAY" in thelondonpaper; "The Croc Hunter is killed by a fish" in Lite. The true test of both papers will come on days when the choice of lead story isn't obvious.
8. The Standard appears unworried by it all - save for a new line added to the top of the masthead, which gives the game away. In elegant serif font, as if it had been carved in Kensington stone, it now says "LONDON'S QUALITY NEWSPAPER".
9. One cunning ruse in thelondonpaper is to have a rundown of headlines of the morning's papers. Mischievously it includes the Evening Standard.
10. Sorry to bore non-metropolitan readers of Paper Monitor. But this is going to be a fascinating battle which could have an impact on the entire British newspaper industry. If it doesn't affect your reading habits now, it could well do in the months to come.