Hannah Glasse’s 18th-century book The Art of Cookery starts its recipe for jugged hare with the sage advice: “First catch your hare.” This is a task that Rupert Murdoch’s London media minions had to address first thing this morning when the penny dropped on Friday that Jonathan Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere) had started the latest newspaper war without them.
Jonathan’s London Lite, had a soft launch last Friday ahead of a full roll out on Wednesday. Rupert was planning to launch TheLondonPaper a fortnight earlier than originally planned on Monday, September 4.
This intended timeframe means that Jonathan’s fleet-footed London Lite will have a week-long head start on Rupert’s paper. A whole week of exclusive access to the target market; a whole week to win the hearts and minds of dippy, white-collar office-workers in the London ABC1 demographic aged between 18 and 34; and a whole week to refine the product and get its production and distribution systems up to speed.
Whatever rabbit Rupert pulls out of his hat next Monday will labour under the severe handicap that Jonathan has already set the agenda in terms of journalism and formats. Rupert will have to come up with something either completely different or exactly the same if he is to have any chance of catching Jonathan’s hard-running hare in the straight.
Because Fleet Street is the Mecca for journalistic competition, these battles to be first to get to the young urbanites with “your interactive paper for the internet age,” will undoubtable produce brilliant journalism – in both the papers and the websites that accompany them.
Jonathan’s paper has probably got far too much news in it for Rupert’s liking. And he will be absolutely furious that Jonathan has stolen Rupert’s purple livery for his masthead – but in this vicious game of vacuous corporate show and tell – the only victor can be the survivor. And they’re racing before the starter’s gun…