On the pavements of London, the battle lines are drawn between newspaper giants

One is the world's most powerful media tycoon; the other is the head of Britain's pre-eminent newspaper dynasty. And when London's new evening tabloid, TheLondonPaper, is launched, the two are expected to go head to head in a vicious and increasingly hostile circulation war on the pavements of the capital.

The battle will pit Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media tycoon and a long-standing scourge of the establishment, against the Fleet Street magnate Jonathan Harold Vere Harmsworth, the fourth Lord Rothermere.

Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Evening Standard and Daily Mail, opened hostilities yesterday with an aggressive pre-emptive strike against Mr Murdoch's forthcoming launch. In a carefully managed announcement, the company revealed plans to distribute London Lite, a new free evening paper, to 400,000 commuters in central London. It also plans to relaunch the Standard's This is London internet site.

The new titles - which involve investments of millions of pounds - will be in contention from the middle of next month. Murdoch's News International has already decided to launch TheLondonPaper on 19 September.

Mr Murdoch has been planning his launch for more than a year, and hopes to eat into the Standard's fragile circulation, which recently recorded a 19 percent year-on-year fall to 300,000.

"We have done countless bits of market research, and the feeling is that the Evening Standard has lost the support of Londoners," said a source at News International. "People feel that it is full of doom and gloom and does London down. TheLondonPaper has been designed as a direct contrast. It is aimed at younger readers, and is colourful and upbeat.

"This will be Rupert Murdoch's first-ever UK newspaper launch, and he's not going to let it fail. We've done our groundwork, and intend to make it work. In the past, Rothermere's only competition in this market has been from people like Robert Maxwell. Rupert is a completely different prospect, and intends to hurt him. Regardless of this new title, he has no intention of going away."

News International's free paper is to be edited by The Independent's media columnist Stefano Hatfield and will employ a combined editorial and advertising staff of about 70.

Associated Newspapers is keeping details of its new title under wraps, although the editor is expected to be the former Daily Mail executive Martin Clarke. Last year, he launched Standard Lite, a slimmed-down lunchtime version of the Evening Standard, which will now be scrapped. Other staff moves have yet to be announced, but the paper is believed to have hired another veteran Mail journalist, John McEntee, to edit its gossip column.

Both London Lite and TheLondonPaper will initially be distributed by hand. But the two titles are also battling to secure important contracts to distribute through mainline and London Underground stations.

The free morning paper Metro has exclusive rights to distribute via stations until 2010, but a recent ruling by the Office of Fair Trading means access to the afternoon market will be widened next year.

The success of Metro, which was launched in 1999 and now boasts a circulation of 900,000, has led to widespread speculation that the age of the paid-for newspaper could be on the wane. But Associated Newspapers last night denied speculation that London Lite will eventually replace its paid-for sister title, which has been losing money for the past five years.

The Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley hinted yesterday that her newspaper would reposition itself as an upmarket title. It is expected to increase its cover price from 40p to 50p next month.

"We intend to build on the Evening Standard's great reputation for news and quality journalism," she said in a statement. "The paper has the highest number of AB readers of any newspaper in London, and the largest circulation of any national paper in the capital with the exception of the Daily Mail. If you want to know what's really going on in London, you must buy the Evening Standard."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent