MEDIA: Can a launch do the business on Sunday?

A new Sunday newspaper is being planned as a specialist business title - to sit alongside the likes of the Sunday Times and Observer as a weekend read.

A new Sunday newspaper is being planned as a specialist business title -

to sit alongside the likes of the Sunday Times and Observer as a weekend

read.



The new paper, provisionally titled Sunday Business, has already had

around pounds 1m spent on researching and developing it.



Its overall launch budget is thought to be in the region of pounds 10m

to pounds 15m. And as much as 40% of that could go on its marketing and

advertising budget.



Several agencies, including those with experience of working on the

advertising of major players in the national newspaper market, have been

consulted.



A launch date of April has been pencilled in, and if it does go ahead

then details of journalists and financial backers are due to be

announced in the new year.



Supply but no demand?



But in a crowded newspaper market, where the talk is of papers closing

and circulations falling, will the proposed title ever see the light of

day? And, if it does appear, is there enough demand in a market well

served by existing business sections to sustain it?



Sunday Business would need a circulation of 150,000 with a cover price

of 85p to justify publication. A pilot issue has already been produced,

with six sections, including a magazine called Trading Week - which will

cover the international markets.



The man behind the proposed launch is Tom Rubython, former owner and

editor of Business Age, who sold the magazine off to VNU for more than

pounds 3m.



Rubython is adopting a cautious tone about the chances of the newspaper

making it to market, despite the heavy cost of research and development.



But it would have to be a tightly run ship and the first year would see

losses of around pounds 4m - being turned around to a pounds 20.2m money

maker by the end of year three.



Rubython will only say that it’s a ‘project under development’ - and

questions about funding and viability remain unresolved. But its

development has gone a long way - dummies have been produced and

research groups are understood to have liked them.



However Mel Varley, deputy media director at Leo Burnett, which this

year researched, along with the Central Office of Information and

Express Newspapers, what newspaper sections people read, said the

business market at weekends is already well served.



‘A new title wouldn’t only be competing with the Sunday business

sections, but also those published on a Saturday. There is also The

Economist, which publishes on a Friday. The cost of setting up such a

paper would also be high. Sunday Business would need to bring in

business journalists who knew their area and could imbue the brand with

the quality needed to distinguish itself in the market.’



Varley points out that if there was a gap in the market for a business

Sunday - then the obvious candidate to fill it would have been a seventh

issue of The Financial Times.



But Frank Barlow, managing director of Pearson, the FT’s publisher, is

sceptical about whether a Sunday business title could bring enough to

the party to survive competition from the growing business sections in

Sunday titles.



He says Pearson has looked at opportunities for extending the Financial

Times brand - but a Sunday paper makes no sense.



‘We’ve got no plans to go into the market and produce any weekend

versions of the Financial Times. The financial market is not active on a

Saturday - so one of the main reasons why people buy the paper on a

Sunday would be removed.



Market competition



‘I personally don’t think a dedicated Sunday business paper will work.

The title will inevitably be feature-led rather than containing hard

information. I think this is a very difficult market to break into, and

one where there is already established competition.’



But where Sunday Business differs from previous research into whether a

new Sunday title is possible, is that pilot issues have already been

well received.



If the title could establish itself as an authoritative voice in

business journalism then readers might feel they had to have it.



Sunday Business may hope to steal the FT’s clothes, telling readers ‘No

Sunday Business - No Comment on Monday mornings.’



Discussion

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