Having helped launch two newspapers, my sympathies are always with the
doer. That’s why I found the sight of the plucky new Sunday Business,
sitting plumply alongside the nine other national titles, initially
rather cheerful. Given the distractions of its well-publicised
financial, print and editorial problems, it looked more substantial, and
well-presented than anyone expected.
With its clean type and professional lay-out it had a superficial
attractiveness. And while rivals furiously rubbished its stories, at
least its front-page splash told us that the award of a giant Ministry
of Defence contract was in the offing, and would inevitably play some
part in the Election campaign.
I have more than a passing interest in the City, and consider myself
bang in Tom Rubython’s target market. That is where the problem starts.
The product falls between two stools with not enough authoritative
comment on its opinion pages, or inside knowledge for the businessman to
make him or her switch valuable reading time.
But neither is the package, as a whole, bright and racy enough to
attract the non-specialist. The one exception was the Business & Fortune
magazine, which has potential. It focused on personalities with perhaps
too many pictures of self-satisfied men, but I found myself avidly
reading every word about multimillionaire Charles Dunstone. As his
company is unquoted, he is precisely the type of new player overlooked
by conventional City pages, which concentrate their fire-power on the
affairs of listed companies.
Winning discreet compliments from senior City journalists is the link-up
with US financial news/data company Bloomberg, which provided Sunday
Business with a Trading Week tabloid supplement, informative reviews of
world business, backed up by pages of world stocks. In contrast the
paper’s limp personal finance section Money & Life is surely a costly
mistake. With the boom in personal equity plans, building society
mergers and takeovers and all the advertising that accompanies it, this
needs to be beefed up, and fast.
It is not clear how long this paper will be with us, or indeed how even
a target circulation of 150,000 a week may eventually be reached. The
larger truth is that stand alone publications, unless generously funded
- as the other newcomer London Financial News appears to be - are always
precarious. Yet the prophets of doom, who refer to the collapse of the
News on Sunday and Correspondent should also take stock of the European,
about to produce its 311th edition. It is a fascinating example of how a
firmly focussed niche weekly paper, accompanied by an upgraded and
civilised Euro-culture magazine, can win through. Will Sunday Business
be so lucky?