MEDIA: Why Sunday Business must follow the European model

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.

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?



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