Despite breaking big stories and using prestigious columnists, Andrew Neil's Sunday newspaper The Business has never been a financial success.
It was founded a decade ago as The Sunday Business and relaunched as The Business in 2002. It is still running at an annual loss of around £3m. This week's relaunch - which will see the newspaper become a glossy magazine, out on Thursdays rather than Sundays - is the latest attempt to rectify that situation.
The Business's distribution is also changing. Of its latest ABC (120,200) only 20,000 paid full price for the paper, the rest getting free requested copies. Neil admits that while The Business tried to choose its readers, there has been ‘a bit of wastage'.
The relaunched magazine, on the other hand, is aiming to achieve a more focused 50,000 initial circulation, of ‘AB' businessmen and women (‘the hard-working rich' as Neil describes them), with every issue paid for.
City PR executives welcome this strategy, citing its previous distribution arrangement as one of their concerns about whether The Business really did reach the right people.
However, according to Neil, although its timing and packaging are different, the content of the new magazine will be similar to that of the old paper.
‘The problem was never the content,' he argues. ‘It is serious and upmarket, for big business people. Regular readers will feel very comfortable with what we have done - we have basically taken the content of the paper and retailored it.'
City editor Rupert Steiner says: ‘Some assume that the magazine format places less emphasis on breaking stories, but we have a good track record of getting scoops, and this will continue to be very important.'
Steiner argues that coverage in The Business will be read by a core of City bankers, institutions and companies. He says: ‘Bringing scoops to us - as has been shown - does move share prices.'
There are some new features in the magazine, however, including ‘Bulls and Bears' (‘three pages of delicious snippets and gossip', says Neil), a ‘Villain of the Week' feature, and a ‘Brand Index' (a chart by pollster YouGov and analysis by its CEO, Stephan Shakespeare).
The website has also relaunched, and will have a ‘24/7 life of its own' with a ‘constant stream of content', according to Neil.
Features will undoubtedly benefit from the glossy format: a section badged ‘Indulgences' is to cover high-end luxury goods, travel, private jets, property and fine art, for example.
So, how will City PROs greet the new-look title? Neil and Steiner will be disappointed to learn that those PROs consulted by PRWeek say they will be unlikely to target The Business with an earth-shattering City exclusive. The likes of The Sunday Times's business pages are likely to remain the priority for the biggest stories.
But as Maitland executive chairman Angus Maitland points out, The Business's scoops inevitably get picked up elsewhere, with its stories likely to be penned with a ‘strong European perspective'.
Neil believes one of the title's points of difference is that the nationals' business sections tend to be ‘overwhelmingly British-oriented', whereas The Business focuses on ‘London as the capital of global finance, not London as the capital of Britain'.
Neil wants PROs to take advantage of the magazine's ‘unique' news cycle. The magazine will be going to press on Wednesday afternoons, with the news desk's peak activity on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - so, generally, the best days to get in touch will be Mondays and Tuesdays.
Penrose Financial managing director Gay Collins often puts clients forward to provide comment and bylined articles in The Business's feature pages.
She believes the relaunch ‘will provide the PR industry with a further opportunity for stories that cannot hold until the weekend.'
Neil argues that The Business has no direct competitor. ‘New York has BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune and a number of other publications. They have tried and failed to launch European editions - they were still American magazines, just with a European wrap,' he asserts.
‘London is a global business centre, but this will be its first global business magazine. There is a huge gap in the market for a truly European business magazine,' he adds.
College Hill Associates executive chairman Alex Sandberg believes that the gap in the market is not as huge as Neil makes out, describing it as more like a ‘cigarette-paper space' given all the other business offerings, from Saturday's Financial Times to magazines Management Today and The Economist.
However, he says: ‘The dummy issue [pictured, above right] looks terrific, but the magazine's success will depend hugely on the quality of the comment - and there are some big names contributing.'
Neil is certainly confident his new strategy will pay dividends: ‘People are avalanched by Sunday newspapers, but this will be something they can read on a Friday night.'
THE BUSINESS: who PROs need to know
Andrew NEIL, CEO and editor-in-chief
T 020 7961 0002
Paul WOOLFENDEN, Managing director
T 020 7961 0006
Ian WATSON, Editor
T 020 7961 0046
Allister HEATH, Deputy editor
T 020 7961 0041
Fraser NELSON, Political editor
T 020 7219 4682
Rupert STEINER, City editor
T 020 7961 0047
Ben MARLOW, Financial services correspondent
T 020 7961 0029
Catherine BOYLE, City reporter
T 020 7961 0240
Richard ORANGE, Utilities and energy
T 020 7961 0050
Tony GLOVER, Technology editor
T 020 7961 0046
Michael PILGRIM, Features editor
Claire SHARP, Luxury goods editor