These are strange days indeed for the tabloid press. This month’s
mega-merger between AOL and Time Warner was given the whole of page six
in the Sun and, while high-profile City news so soon after page three
may sound like a bizarre one-off, this is just the start.
Next month the Mirror’s City Slickers page is being doubled; the Sun has
a new business editor, Ian King, with editor David Yelland pledging to
put more City news in his pages, and even the Daily Star is considering
doing the same.
What is happening? Have the publishers gone soft or are the great
unwashed developing a taste for a more challenging read?
It is perhaps telling that the current tabloid vogue for City news is
being pioneered by Mirror editor and former showbiz reporter Piers
Morgan. In his celebrity reporting he developed a ’friend of the stars’
matey persona, and he has encouraged the same formula in his successful
City Slickers business coverage.
The increasing commercial and economic literacy which consumers have
developed in the past ten years as they have begun to make more informed
purchasing decisions, has led to a greater appetite for business news
and details on ’star’ business leaders. The current vogue for City news
may be feeding off this just as much as the stock market boom which is
also undoubtedly a contributory factor.
According to Jed Glanvill, a director at BBJ Media Services where he
buys space in the tabloids for clients such as Bass Brewers, the reason
might just be tabloid editors’ desperation to find anything to stem the
tide of circulation decline.
But he also says: ’People are generally a lot more financially aware
these days. The economy is growing, and people have money in their
pockets, so there is more interest in the City and business
The fact that more people are now trading shares as a result of the
popular share issues of the 1980s, coupled with the ease of trading on
the internet, is also probably contributing to the current vogue for
business news, he believes.
Another factor is that the financial services industry is booming at the
moment and the tabloid press is keen to do all it can to get its hands
on the increased advertising spend in this area, spending that
broadsheets and other media have already exploited.
Carrying more business and City news could simply be interpreted as a
cynical move in this direction.
Name: Anil Bhoyrul
Position: Assistant editor (business) Section: City Slickers
’Basically the reason the tabloids are so interested in the City is the
stock market boom. The broadsheets just report the news, but that leaves
us to do the gossipy fun and entertaining City coverage.
’Our focus has always been on share tips and making money for our
Nobody really noticed when we first started, but last year our share
tips showed 159 per cent growth over the year - the second best in Fleet
Street - so people have noticed us.
’We also have a unique style of doing it - the one pioneered by (editor)
Piers Morgan when he used to do the showbiz column. It is the matey,
style of reporting - ’our pals told us over a few beers about this’ type
’When we started he said to us: You have got to re-invent business
coverage. We didn’t think this approach would work in business when we
started two years ago but it has. When we started we were just being
read by the average Mirror reader, now we are read by a lot of the
people in the City - market makers and fund managers take note of what
we say because generally stocks we tip are going to go up. It is true
now that a lot of the top people also have to read it because their
employees are reading it.
’We are now expanding the coverage to two pages and growing in other
ways that I can’t talk about. I know the Sun is doing more, too, but it
is doing it in the standard news way without tips - this is just a
second-rate version of what the broadsheets do. They probably don’t want
to get the flak when they get it wrong - this certainly happens to us a
lot. Last Friday I had to take my home phone off the hook because I had
so many people wanting to ring up and abuse me.’
Name: Ian King
Position: Business editor
Section: Sun City Circulation: 3,395,273
’It is not new having a City page in the Sun - Kelvin MacKenzie actually
started it in 1987. We still just have one page, but the editor, David
Yelland, has said he wants to encourage more financial stories further
up the paper.
’For example we did a whole page six on the AOL/Time Warner merger -
that’s more than the Daily Mail did. David was working in the US of
course, where share prices are discussed all the time wherever you go,
so he knows how popular it can be. It is a cliche to say it, but what
has happened in the US will probably happen here. Look at the boom in
internet share dealing - it has already started.
’I think our readers are everyone - from City professionals to people
who have never bought shares in their lives. A lot of City people read
the Sun - I know because they get in touch - they buy the FT and then
get the Sun as a treat. There is also a massive amount of people who
bought the popular share issues and they are now readers.
’We do the same as the broadsheets, but use less technical jargon in our
pages, which was the same at the Mail on Sunday where I came from. You
have to spell it out sometimes. It is a folksy approach, but it is also
important not to talk down to people.
’We do try to do things on companies that are familiar to the main body
of our readers. For example we recentlyl ran a story about three big
retailers issuing profits warnings; that is news that strikes a chord
But I am also trying to do some of the companies that are not so well
known. People do pick up tips from the Sun - all financial journalists
are in the business of breaking stories with price-sensitive
information, that is why people read them.’