Magazine article The Spectator

Why I Believe There Are 100,000 People Willing to Buy a New Quality Paper

Magazine article The Spectator

Why I Believe There Are 100,000 People Willing to Buy a New Quality Paper

Article excerpt

The editor of this magazine has asked me to write about a new publication I am planning. You may possibly have read about it. Two weeks ago John Gapper of the Financial Times telephoned me to say he had heard that several people, including myself, were proposing to launch a new upmarket national daily newspaper loosely based on Le Monde, and provisionally called the World. I could hardly deny it. I told Mr Gapper that we had not yet raised the £15.4 million we are seeking, and suggested that he would be jumping the gun if he were to set pen to paper now. Would anyone be interested if we were hoping to start a widget factory but had not yet got the money? Mr Gapper replied that the prospect of a new national newspaper was a matter of public interest, even if its eventual publication was not certain, and he duly wrote a report which was accurate in every respect. This gave rise to many other pieces, all of which have been fair-minded apart from one exceptionally mean-spirited offering by Andrew Neil.

Over the years I have often grumbled about the dumbing-down of the broadsheet press. Britain is the only important country in the world which does not have an uncompromisingly upmarket title. (I exclude the Financial Times because it is not a general newspaper.) Of course there are many serious voices in the broadsheets, but they exist alongside ever more lavish coverage of celebrities and daft pieces about animals. There was a time not long ago when you could hardly pick up a copy of the Times or Daily Telegraph without seeing a picture of David Beckham on the front page or on page three. Look at the recent crazy coverage of I'm a Celebrity. . . Get Me Out of Here!

All this has happened over the past few years. If you study the Times of f990 you will find almost no stories about celebrities or furry animals. Even though Rupert Murdoch had then owned the paper for nine years, it was still uniformly pretty serious. Why the rapid transformation? It is difficult to believe that we are all getting much more stupid at such an alarming rate. The Times's reduction of its cover price in September f993 was a decisive moment. The new readers who flocked to the cheaper Times could only be retained if the paper permanently dumbed down. In the highly competitive British newspaper market the Daily Telegraph and the Independent felt threatened, and tended to follow the Times downmarket. Whether this is a complete explanation I do not know, but it is undeniable that our broadsheet newspapers are a good deal less serious-minded (without being any wittier) than they were little more than a decade ago.

No doubt most readers are perfectly happy with this state of affairs, but not everyone is. The question is how many people really yearn for a grown-up newspaper that provides honest reporting and intelligent commentary without the trivia and pap that is generally also served up. It would be foolhardy to suppose there is an enormous constituency. We have done a good deal of research - you have to if you are hoping to raise money - and we believe there are at least 100,000 potential buyers of our newspaper - either disenchanted readers of existing titles or people who, whether out of boredom or despair, have given up reading daily newspapers.

A daily circulation of 100,000 is of course tiny by comparison with our prospective rivals, some of which lose money while sell-ing several times that number. We believe that it is possible to break even at this level, partly by adopting a rigorous low-cost model, and partly by devoting disproportionate resources to those areas which we believe are most important to our readers. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.