Fresh from declaring its “pop-up” pro-European newspaper The New European a profitable success and vowing to continue publishing the title on a rolling basis beyond its planned four-week run, UK publisher Archant has got plans for more limited edition newspapers.
One such title will be a free Christmas TV listings guide, Business Insider can reveal.
Archant — the fifth largest regional newspaper publisher in the UK — is currently presenting the idea to UK media agencies.
The idea being presented at the moment is that it would be funded by an exclusive advertiser, which would also have a say on distribution — so the newspaper could be specifically distributed next to a retailer’s store locations, for example.
Speaking to Business Insider, Archant CEO Jeff Henry declined to comment specifically about the TV guide, but said: “We have a list of very solid initiatives which we believe will be absolutely suitable for this kind of exploitation.”
The New European launched on July 8, targeted at the 48% of the UK who voted to remain in the European Union in the June referendum.
Archant says the £2 weekly newspaper was profitable, having sold around 40,000 copies of its first edition and maintaining “strong” sales thereafter. An audited circulation number has yet to be released. The title had a marketing budget of just £10,000.
Asked what kind of margins The New European is making, Henry said: “We are not the new Google because of The New European. It is profitable in terms of: it makes money for Archant.”
He explained it’s a difficult question to answer because The New European does not have a separate staff or P&L — it is run using resources from elsewhere in the business, plus some other minimal costs like paper and paying freelancers. Rather than build an entirely new infrastructure, as most publishers would do when launching a new title, Archant mostly just borrowed from what it already had.
Henry added: “It is a marginal contributor — not small — but on the margin it produces very valuable revenue and profit for Archant with no real cost.”
Jeff Henry, Archant chief executive.
How a new newspaper came to life in 9 days
The New European moved from concept to launch in just nine days.
Henry had asked Archant management to review what the impact of Brexit might have on the business and present their findings at a meeting. Everyone came back with bleak findings about the price of ink and paper or the weakening of the pound.
Dismayed, Henry asked whether there was any good news, to which the distribution team remarked that people had been buying more papers as they looked to get clued up on matters related to the referendum — a notion backed up by the Audit Bureau of Circulations report for June, which showed national newspapers saw a boost in both print and online readership month-on-month.
Matt Kelly, Archant’s chief content officer (and now the editor of The New European), raised an email conversation he had with Henry the weekend before the meeting about the potential to do a special edition Brexit paper.
“The enthusiasm of the team took over,” according to Henry.
He added: “I asked all the teams if this was something we could do in nine days. Content said yes. Distribution said yes. Sales said: ‘We think maybe not in the first edition, but by the second we can do something’. I said to the team that by that afternoon we needed to get the finance guys involved to see if we have a business plan. To be honest, we just backed our gut and took an entrepreneurial, aggressive approach and said: ‘Why not, let’s do this’.”
Continuing that theme, Henry said the decision to sell at a cover price of £2 took just “30 seconds.”
“Normally we would go through rounds of discussions, but this took all of what I think was about 30 seconds: ‘Is this £1.50? No it’s £2. Do you think the market will pay? We think this is a quality product, so yes, that’s what we’re going to do.’ There was nothing more scientific than that,” Henry said.
The New European’s performance was somewhat against the odds, launching at a turbulent time for the UK print newspaper market.
Print newspaper circulations have been in decline for years. Rival UK publisher Trinity Mirror launched a new national newspaper this year, The New Day, but it closed in May after just nine weeks. On Thursday, the publisher of a new daily newspaper aimed at the north of England — 24 — announced it would cease publication after just five weeks.
Henry says it isn’t an issue if The New European doesn’t last much longer than The New Day — it will only continue to exist as long as it keeps performing for Archant, which is eager to repeat the experiment again.
He added: “We are feeling quite confident about the idea over a lot of different future publications … some people had said that print was dead. Actually, we don’t believe that. If you can hit and feel and touch the zeitgeist of a moment — you just mentioned a TV publication launching at a point when TV viewing hits the peak for the year — I’m not saying that’s a great example, but I think there will be other examples where pop-up publishing may lead.”
At 40,000 copies — and now probably fewer than that — The New European isn’t giving the rest of the UK’s national newspaper market a run for its money yet (The Sun had an average circulation of 1.7 million last month, for example). The Guardian’s media commentator Roy Greenslade also pointed out that the title is “more of a political pamphlet than a newspaper” designed to appeal to the mass market. But what The New European’s relative early success might show is that despite all the threats from digital, there are still opportunities to experiment and make money from a medium many people thought was on the verge of becoming extinct.
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