- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

LONDON (AP) — Rupert Murdoch’s London Times newspaper said yesterday it will debut a U.S. edition in less than two weeks as part of a push to make the paper an international brand, entering a competitive New York market at a challenging time in the newspaper industry.

The 64-page U.S. edition will go on sale for a sample price of $1 in New York and New Jersey on June 6.

“This is a key moment in the development of the Times as an international media brand,” said Times Editor Robert Thomson, who helped orchestrate a major U.S. expansion of the Financial Times when he worked at the Pearson PLC-owned paper.

“We have seen a large increase in our Times Online readership in the U.S. and the appearance of the newspaper on the streets of New York marks the next stage in our print and Web expansion,” Mr. Thomson said.

The start of the U.S. edition coincides with the start of the World Cup in Germany on June 9, which is expected to be heavily featured in the newspaper’s coverage.

Media analysts said the decision to print the Times in the United States for the first time since the daily newspaper was founded in 1788 was likely to be seen as an attack on the Financial Times, the only British newspaper currently printed in New York.

Some analysts also said the cost of producing the new paper was likely to be initially hefty, with suggestions it could be up to twice as much per paper as the cover price.

However, Mr. Thomson said that the extra editorial cost is minimal because it will use existing newsroom staff. Printing and distribution costs will be kept down by printing the paper at Mr. Murdoch’s New York Post presses, he added.

“This is very different to starting a U.S. newspaper on a greenfield site, which would be expensive,” he said.

The U.S. edition will repackage stories from the British publication and be edited by a team in London headed by John Mair, the current editor of the international edition.

The Times of London is the fifth-biggest paper in Britain, but is considered the second-largest serious newspaper behind its rival the Telegraph, which is owned by the reclusive Barclay brothers.

The crowded British newspaper market has struggled in recent years to combat declining circulation and competition for advertising from the Internet. The Times was one of several papers to move to a smaller format last year in an attempt to appeal to younger readers.

The newspaper industry is facing tough times in the United States as well. Paid daily circulation dropped 2.5 percent in the U.S. for the six months ended March 31, compared with a year earlier, according to the Newspaper Association of America, analyzing data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

New York is also a highly competitive market, with such dailies as the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the New York Sun, and News Corp.’s own New York Post.

Still, the Times probably isn’t going after the masses, said Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association.

“My guess is that they’re going after readers who are looking for an alternative view of the world,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “There may be some evidence of demand for [the Times], but I doubt they’re very ambitious with this. [The company] will probably be very happy to have the paper fill a little niche — like the BBC.”

The U.S. edition, which also will be printed in a smaller tabloid-style format, will focus on news for U.S. readers with international interests.

The Times said it has no plans to boost its reporting staff in the United States, where it has eight correspondents in New York, Washington and Los Angeles.

The U.S. newspaper will be sold via subscription and at more than 2,000 retail outlets across New York and New Jersey.

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