MEDIA: Business freesheet eyes second UK city

This month has been full of negative reports on the recession and its repercussions for the press.

News International free­sheet thelondonpaper was ­rumoured to be on the verge of closing its doors, while the Telegraph Media Group has ­decided to make eight journalists redundant.
How, then, has a niche title such as City AM managed to turn its first profit when­ ­others can barely stay afloat?

The business freesheet ­announced this month that its revenue in the six months to March was £3.5m.

Now, as other papers cut staff and merge operations, City AM is even considering a roll-out to a second UK city, although it would not be drawn on which one.

PROs believe the paper's success stems from its innate ­understanding of its ‘cash-rich, time-poor' readership, whose six-figure salaries mean their interests and needs are miles away from those of the average Daily Mail reader.

Their idea of a good investment would involve a hedge fund rather than an ISA.
James Holmes is an account manager at Limelight PR who successfully pitched his concierge service client to the freesheet.

He says: ‘City AM is as much about the lifestyles of those who read it as it is about the Square Mile itself. We knew any feature we pitched had to be very aspirational and exude wealth and success.'

Holmes warns that City AM's journalists have no time for dithering: ‘It is no good ­offering City AM an idea and then going away to develop it with the client - it is, after all, a daily paper, so it simply does not operate like that.

‘You need to be able to run with the feature there and then. We took our client to an airfield and borrowed an ­Aston Martin, which produced some fantastic shots.'

Other PROs warn pitching to City AM can be difficult unless you have longstanding relationships within the editorial team.

Fourth Day PR co-founder Nikki Scrivener says: ‘There's a lot of churn there, so it is ­impossible to develop decent relationships.

‘My perception is that City AM is seen by young journalists as a stepping stone to greater things. So, the paper is probably a good training ground for journa­lists, but not so good for us PROs trying to find the right person to whom to pitch.'

There are, of course, always opportunities for clients with specialist knowledge.

Ascension Consulting's Russ Bryan secured a full-page byline for his client, the CEO of Manchester Business School, about MBA degrees for the ‘digital generation'.

‘City AM was fine to work with,' says Bryan. ‘Its staff were very open to new ideas.

Frequency Daily: Monday to Friday

Circulation 101,758 (May 2008 ABCs)

Deadline ASAP

Editor Allister Heath
020 7015 1210


A MINUTE WITH... Allister Heath, editor, City AM

How has City AM done so well this year when other titles are sacking staff or closing down?
There are two sides of the equation. We’re taking very tight control of our costs. Also, circulation is increasing – while our ABCs are 101,000, we have a readership of more than 161,000 each day, so our advertisers are following our readers.

We want to take the circulation up to 150,000 – right now it is just distributed in Canary Wharf, the Square Mile and Green Park.

What would be your dream front-page splash?
A great exclusive M&A story. Or a CEO resigning or a shop’s profits falling. We’re always keen for PROs to give us interesting stories. We also have three or four pages of lifestyle stuff every day, so we need to know what’s going on.

What are your plans for the year ahead?
We’re starting with growth in London, then a possible regional roll-out. We’ll be doing much more on the web and now have QR codes, so readers can get the news via mobile phone.

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