New paper rides on success of IHT

Deal gives Tribune access to local presses and circulation, while local firm wins by association.

The International Herald Tribune has teamed up with a Pakistani publisher to launch a new English-language newspaper in March that will be distributed inside the IHT throughout Pakistan. The deal between the IHT, a holding of the New York Times Company, and Century Publications, a subsidiary of the Lakson Group, is the ninth of its kind for the international newspaper publisher.

The IHT has a similar deal in the UAE with the Khaleej Times. The IHT benefits by getting to use the local papers' printing presses and distribution channels, while the local papers receive a boost in stature and reach from their association with a brand with roots that stretch back more than 130 years. "Currently, the IHT does not print in Pakistan," said Randy Weddle, the Asia Pacific managing director for IHT.

"This opportunity allows us to print in three cities - Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore. "Printing facilitates the sale of the newspaper in that it becomes available early in the morning, which is generally the time that people buy and read a newspaper. "Given that Pakistan is a very news-focused market at this particular time and that it is a country of educated English speakers who have interests in international affairs, the commercial opportunity appears significant."

Century Publications publishes the Daily Express, one of Pakistan's most widely circulated Urdu-language newspapers, and broadcasts the 24-hour English-language news channel Express 24/7, as well as a 24-hour Urdu-language news channel. A tentative name for the new paper will be the Express Tribune, said Bilal Lakhani, its publisher. It will aim for a circulation of 5,000 by the end of the first year, Mr Weddle said.

The paper will be competing with a host of English-language papers in Pakistan, including Dawn, The News International, the Daily Times and The Nation, but Mr Lakhani said his paper would stand out by targeting an upmarket audience that included, but was not limited to, expatriates. "I don't think that any of them have this particular combination of the IHT, with The New York Times' wit, along with a local English-language paper," he said.

"I think we will appeal to a more savvy reader who is interested in a global perspective as well as a local perspective ? there is a sizeable population of English-speaking Pakistanis who have been abroad, who travel, and who are hooked into the global elite. These are the decision-makers." Mr Lakhani, whose grandfather founded the Lakson Group in 1954 and whose father founded Century Publications a decade ago, in some ways personifies this educated, internationally minded demographic.

He achieved his MBA at the Yale School of Management and has done some English-language journalism of his own. The Lakson Group, based in Karachi, has a vast portfolio stretching from tea to insurance to surgical instruments. Mr Lakhani said that some of the best commercial opportunities to come from the new paper would be through its convergence with its parent company's other media holdings, including television and digital products. He declined to say how many staff have been hired, but said the make-up of the new news desk would be varied.

"We've recruited a whole new staff; a mix of experienced veterans and a whole fresh crop of budding journalists," Mr Lakhani said. "We provide lots of training opportunities for them."