How an old-fashioned newspaper war is playing out in modern-day LA

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

There is a website called Newspaper Death Watch that chronicles the last rites of the metropolitan elite titles and welcomes the rebirth of news in the digital age.

In a sidebar, under the headline RIP, there is a sorry list of the major newspapers that have gone to the wall in the USA since 2007; some with more than 100 years of history and a raft of Pulitzer Prizes.

Circulations are falling worldwide and it is widely accepted that the fastest way to become a newspaper millionaire is to start out as a billionaire and invest in a printing plant and journalists.

Or is it? On Wednesday the mighty LA Times, one of the big beasts of world journalism, will have a rival on its home turf with the advent of the Los Angeles Register, the brainchild of Aaron Kushner, a former greetings card executive and internet entrepreneur.

Kushner dived headlong into the newspaper industry two years ago, taking control of a California company that owned the Orange County Register and increasing the number of staff. On the basis of its success he took over the Press-Enterprise in nearby Riverside and then started a new title in Long Beach which already had a daily, the Press-Telegram, causing (and this is a phrase that I thought was long dead) a newspaper war.

Fresh from those battles, Kushner is now moving his battalions into Los Angeles where he is determined to offer an alternative to the LA Times – one that will attract readers and advertisers. In line with the way real wars have gone over the years this will not be mano-a-mano but guerrilla warfare with the Register focusing on local news.

Kushner outlined his vision for the new paper in an interview with USA Today, saying its size would be "robust": 50 to 60 pages during the week and 80 to 90 on Sundays. He was evasive about how many new journalists he will be hiring. Reading between the lines there will be a big cross over from his other titles, although he says there will be "over 50 journalists" covering Los Angeles.

However, he says: "The size of the physical paper speaks more than how many people are putting it out." Does that mean journalists will be churning out more or that local people will be encouraged to contribute their own articles?

Kushner obviously believes, based on the last two years, that he has a winning formula to make money but he also has, like every newspaper baron before him, his own axe to grind. He says his newspaper's "right of center, pro-business" editorial stance will attract readers looking for a point of view more conservative than the Times'.

He says that he is in it for the long term and has a 10-year business plan. "We are building an important institution."

Kushner is no journalist and is not in it for the excitement of getting the big story. Nor is he a vanity publisher who, like a football club owner, is happy to spend money on his hobby. He is a hard-headed free marketeer ready to do away with preconceptions and be rigid on costs, concentrating purely on local news for local people.

There will be no major investigations, foreign correspondents or bureaux in Washington or New York. There will be enough media graduates who will work on it for a living wage as a way into the business and a raft of advertising sales people working for bonuses.

Kushner believes it still makes sense to invest in print, for he says that is still where newspaper companies make most of their revenue. We shall see.