The Tory Party plans for a good news newspaper may come unstuck unless
they get to grips with the fundamental rules of publishing says Bob
Wells, managing director of Key Communications Publishing Group
The most astonishing aspect of the Conservative Party’s good news
newspaper is that they expect to fill 16 pages.
For months to come dinner parties will be playing games in which guests
are challenged to name six articles that would have appeared in the
newspaper - a project that already looks dodgier than a herd of cattle.
Publishing the paper will require the Tories to get at least two things
right, and given their recent luck and track record, that might be
asking too much. First they’ve got to find enough good news, and
secondly, as the apparent postponement has shown, they need to get the
timing right when it should be issued.
Those who seek to publish must ensure that what they publish is
relevant, honest and credible. They must have a very clear idea of their
readership and tackle the issues that concern them. From the outset
targets should be set for the results they expect to achieve.
Certainly the Tories, who intend to distribute the newspaper to 100,000
homes in marginal seats, know exactly what they want out of it: votes.
But unless they abide by these fundamental principles, their newspaper
is likely to be as welcome through people’s letterboxes as the Inland
Revenue’s self-assesment forms.
It may well write about ‘feel good’ stories on falling unemployment and
low inflation. But what about the ‘feel bad’ factor of people struggling
to pay their mortgages, being uncertain about the security of their jobs
and worried about the last joint of roast beef they ate? Will the
newspaper deal openly and credibly with issues such as these? Will
people treat it like they treat most election leaflets? Timing could be
tricky. I wonder if this title could become the Marie Celeste of
publishing: one day it was there, sailing along smoothly, and then
suddenly everyone disappeared never to be seen again.
The launch was put off because of the bad news of BSE. But we could be
incinerating thousands of cattle a week for years to come. And the
Tamworth by-election could be one of the last nails in a coffin that
seems to be nearing completion. The whole project is reminiscent of the
Dangerous Dogs Act. No one disputes that it was a good idea, but it was
poorly thought through and ultimately bungled.
There is one final question of value for money and the benefits the
Tories will receive in return for their investment. How much will it
cost to convert a few floating voters?
They should ponder long and hard before launching their good news
newspaper, and shouldn’t waste their money unless they are going to do