Associated Newspapers plans closure of London Lite - Press Gazette

Associated Newspapers plans closure of London Lite

Associated Newspapers has entered a consultation over the future of the London Lite after announcing plans today which could result in its closure.

The national newspaper publishing division of Daily Mail & General Trust said this afternoon that it was considering ceasing publication of the weekday freesheet, putting around 36 staff jobs at risk.

The announcement comes just two weeks after the London Evening Standard, which DMGT holds a 25 per cent stake in, went free and a little over a month since News International‘s rival freesheet, thelondonpaper, ceased publication.

Steve Auckland, managing director of Associated Newspapers Free Division, said: “The latest development in the London afternoon free newspaper space dictates that we look again at the future of London Lite.

“Despite reaching a large audience with an excellent editorial format, we are concerned about the commercial viability in this highly competitive area.”

Press Gazette understands Associated’s consultation with employees will take place before a final decision is taken about job losses.

After buying the Standard from DMGT in January, Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev transformed it into a free newspaper earlier this month – ending a 182-year history of charging for the title.

Converting the 50p newspaper to a free paper more than doubled its daily circulation of around 250,000 to in excess of 600,000 each weekday and put additional pressure on the Lite, which is handed out every weekday afternoon and evening across central London and has a distribution of just over 400,000.

Despite assurances that it was “business as usual” for the Lite from executives, speculation mounted that DMGT would close the paper which it set up in 2006 and is now estimated to run losses of around £10m a year.

News International closure its loss-making free evening newspaper, thelondonpaper, put 60 staff at risk of redundancy.

James Murdoch, son of Rupert and chairman and chief executive of News Corp in Europe and Asia, said the paper was being closed as performance of the business in a difficult free evening newspaper sector had “fallen short of expectations”.

That announcement brought to an end the London freesheet war which began three years ago when News International committed to launching thelondonpaper and rival Associated Newspapers quickly began producing its own afternoon freesheet to protect the London Evening Standard, which it then solely owned.