Murdoch Versus Viscount in London Newspaper Battle

02 August 2006

Rupert Murdoch's UK unit News International has thrown down a dollar-plated gauntlet to aristocratic British newspaper proprietor Harold Jonathan Esmond Vere Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere and chairman of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

From September 18 the upstart from Oz will challenge the peer of the realm for control of the immensely lucrative London evening newspaper market, for decades monopolized by His Lordship's Evening Standard.

Murdoch's chosen weapon is Thelondonpaper (TLP), to be edited by former UK advertising journo Stephano Hatfield, who last year abandoned the fleshpots of Manhattan where he edited the New York edition of Metro to take the Murdoch shilling.

TLP will be hand-distributed in Central London and around Canary Wharf with a print run of 400,000, targeting the 18-34 age group with "lifestyle-led news" - or trendy trash as it is sometimes known.

The newcomer means business and is ready for an archetypal Murdochian-style war war of financial attrition. With a staff of seventy, some of whom are real journalists, issues will run to a maximum of 48 pages.

DMGT, however, will be no pushover for NewsCorp, not least because of the intriguing similarity between their respective proprietors.

Both enjoyed an elite education in the UK, later entering their family media businesses on the second-from-top rung, and eventually inheriting those businesses from their respective fathers.

Despite their very different images - faux proletarian on the one hand, patrician on the other - both media barons are tough operators with deep coffers and who take no prisoners. The result of the battle is by no means a foregone conclusion and will be watched with fascination around London's media parish pump.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff