Associated Newspapers aims to leapfrog News International by launching its free daily London Lite five days ahead of rival thelondonpaper.
Associated has evidently anticipated that NI would bring its launch forward — and has said that it will be hitting the streets with London Lite "imminently".
Press Gazette understands that the target launch date is Wednesday (30 August), which could give it three days as the only evening free on the streets, and so a head start in establishing its brand with commuters.
Associated said that the 48-page Lite will be aimed at 25- to 34-year-old young professionals and "will bring a dynamic, fresh and punchy approach to the capital's news, business, showbusiness and sport and offer a comprehensive listings and entertainment guide."
Associated says it first started planning London Lite three years ago, but then delayed it, pending the outcome of an OFT enquiry into distributing an afternoon paper at train and Tube stations.
Launch editor Martin Clarke has been in charge of the project for the last six weeks and Steve Auckland, head of Associated Newspapers' free newspapers division, will supervise production.
Auckland said: "With the OFT cleared, our long-held plans can now be put in place. Our considerable experience of the London market and free newspapers leaves us in no doubt that London Lite will be very attractive to advertisers and secure a big audience."
London Lite is to be a completely separate entity from the main paid-for Evening Standard, even to the extent that it will be published by a separate company from the main Standard.
The new title will not share editorial resources with the Standard, but it will benefit from the same ad sales team, allowing Associated Newspapers to offer deals across the Standard, London Lite and the Thisislondon website.
The strategy to save the Standard centres around moving it "away from the freesheets" to concentrate on keeping it as a "proper newspaper" which relies on "quality journalism".
One Standard source suggested that next month's newspaper battle may even do the Standard some good — by creating excitement in the market and driving more people to read newspapers in London.