The London Lite and 'blogs'

The current debate in the London old media circuit is over which of the two new afternoon free newspapers ('freesheets' in media parlance) will be sucessful, if any. In one corner we have 'thelondonpaper', from Murdoch's News International (publishers of The Sun and the News of the World). In the other corner we have Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Evening Standard, which has for a long time been the only London afternoon newspaper, sold at 40p from a network of street and station stands. They're clearly threatened, and have launched 'London Lite' - an afternoon freesheet, itself a replacement of their previous 'Standard Lite' paper - in a move to 'spoil' the rival Murdoch-backed launch.

I'll leave it to other media commentators to analyse the relative merits of the two approaches - I find them both fairly repulsive companies - but having picked up the London Lite this afternoon on the day of its launch, I want to comment about the newspaper's use of 'blogs'.

The first hint we get of apparent blog-like activity is a strapline on the frontpage: 'PLUS: HAVE YOUR SAY WITH LONDON'S CITIZEN CRITICS'. The phrase manages to mix up two calls-to-action, 'have your say' and 'read citizen comments', and seems to be a confused blend of the user-generated-content and 'citizen journalism' concepts.

Further inside, the paper is littered with plugs for the thisislondon.co.uk (no it isn't) website, urging readers to send in everything from reviews to celebrity sightings. These bits of user-generated-content are scattered throughout the paper in columns which all seem to pun off the word 'blog'. So there's 'SPiBLOG' for celebrity sightings ('all your gossip from Lite's army of citizen reporters'), 'B@CK ROW BLOGGERS' for film reviews, 'B@CKSTAGE BLOGS' for theatre reviews, 'ART BLOG', 'GIGBLOGS', 'CLUB BLOG', the list goes on...

Each of these 'blog' columns share the common trait of being nothing to do with blogs or blogging whatsoever, but instead just contain a mish-mash of poorly written review copy supossedly sent in by readers. The idea that somehow the paper needs to be modern, and thus internet-savy, permiates the newspaper, but it somehow manages to get it all so wrong. A 'top of the blogs' section even contains an excerpt from a blog nominated by a reader, usually a fairly personal story that's amusing but fairly cringeworthy. The overall impression the paper gives is that blogs are a low form of bedroom diary writing and over-opinionated review writers. There's no attempt to build a conversation or any kind of continuity whatsoever.

And I haven't even started on the news, which more than lives up to the paper's name in being extremely on the 'lite' end of the scale. One edition I picked up led on the front page with a news story about being able to use mobile phones on airplanes, and even that wasn't reported accurately.

A truly abismal newspaper, not worth picking up or a second glance, even if it is free.