New Free UK Daily Site Launches with Four Sponsors

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Even across the pond newspaper publishers are launching free metro commuter papers in an effort to fight for a shrinking pool of print ad dollars. The latest to take the plunge is News Corporation’s UK division News International, publisher of The Times, The Sun and other British papers. An Editor and Publisher piece notes thelondonpaper, an afternoon daily, planned an initial run of over 400,000 copies.

Yes, there is a Web site, and according to an ad on the homepage, it launched with four sponsors: News Corp-owned Sky TV, DaimlerChrysler’s puny eco-friendly Smart Car, mobile media firm 3 and travel site lastminute.com.

According to a letter from the editor, Stefano Hatfield, “thelondonpaper.com also launches (as a beta site) today. In addition to breaking news, competitions and opportunities to contribute and vote, our website takes a broadband look at life in London with daily video coverage of news and entertainment across the city.”

Needless to say the site is laden with commercial-ready pap about Beyonce’s new album, a sex survey, a hot London eatery, and other puffery. The proliferation of these fluff-filled papers is distressing to people who appreciate a good broadsheet (yours truly included). Still, if these papers can help introduce new readers to “real” newspapers (print and Web), and help make up for dwindling national print advertiser revenues in the old school titles, I suppose they’re serving a worthwhile purpose.

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