MW: What is this year's focus at CityAM?
LM: Our big challenge has been to deliver profitability in the recession. Last year was really tough but we have been in profit since September 2009, so the tide is turning. Another goal has been providing the business community with even more facts and figures and we have achieved that, so that is a tick. And our editor Allister Heath has developed into one of Britain's best economic and political spokespeople. He is very good at turning a complicated issue into a clear, authoritative editorial piece.
MW: How is CityAM covering the run-up to the election?
LM: We have a political poll every day, with 700 people on the panel, and Gordon Brown chose CityAM for an exclusive interview on pre-Budget day last November. So we deliver political and business news but we are not in favour of any political party; we are driven purely by the interests of the London business community. Our readers want objective facts and figures, so our job is to show capitalism in its true light, not in its party political light. We talk to all camps - our job is to find out what each party stands for from an economic and business perspective.
MW: Is Lebedev's acquisition of The Independent good for the newspaper industry?
LM: Lebedev believes journalism is as important to democracy and society as banks and financial institutions, and I respect that view. But supporting journalism by turning both his newspapers into profitable businesses will be hard. The Standard has a readership of 1.4 million and I believe it should be possible to make that reach profitable. However, The Independent is a different kettle of fish; it is a loss-leader and it is very hard to turn that around. What I would do [if I were Lebedev] would be to position The Independent as an opinion paper with a new business model of part-free (inside the M25), part paid-for (outside the M25) and part subscription.
MW: Could Lebedev's free empire compete with CityAM for readers?
LM: There is no competition because we reach completely different audiences to the Evening Standard and The Independent. The CityAM reader is wealthier and we focus exclusively on business news.
MW: Is News International right to charge for its websites?
LM: I am surprised it has taken Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch so long to charge for their newspaper websites because they are the global market leader. I do not see a business model in online publishing if it is free. If advertising can't cover the cost of producing the journalism, then you have a loss-making product. News International is filled with people with their finger on the button and personally, if I had to account for online losses, they would have to be filed as a marketing cost. There is no reason for having a loss-making online brand unless it is effectively a marketing tool to promote another part of the business.
MW: So how should publishers safeguard the future of their brands?
LM: People should forget about the distinction between free and paid-for; it is about what content you deliver to your consumers across any device. So let's stop talking about old and new media and concentrate on the audience. If you have a quality product and a quality readership, you will be able to monetise that and so invest in quality journalism.