Life on Sunday set for an uphill fight in tough market

Paul Ross, Englishmen in baseball caps and men who go to awards dinners minus the black ties because they're so creative. Just a few of the people I'd like to see clambering out of the back of that German truck at the end of The Great Escape to face the big machine gun, writes Ian Darby.

You could also put the originators of The Independent tabloid, The Times tabloid and the forthcoming Sunday title Life on Sunday in there too. Simply because their behaviour outrageously contradicts a fine column on this page in September that stated "innovation and newspapers sit together in the same sentence about as comfortably as David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson sharing a dressing room".

No sooner was this sentence written than the newspapers set about proving it wrong. And while it would be lovely to think that my musings stirred the press barons into action, it soon became obvious that they had long been developing new ideas to revive sales.

Since then, of course, we've seen seismic change in the daily market with every broadsheet looking at a tabloid variant. And this week came the reports that Life on Sunday is preparing for launch.

It will face an uphill battle if it is to challenge established players such as The Mail on Sunday and Sunday Express. Reports suggest it will be a mid-market title with a focus on family values rather than sensationalism.

If this is the case it may struggle to meet its reported initial target of 150,000 sales, eventually reaching 500,000.

The Mail on Sunday, after all, has managed to sensationalise family values to the tune of selling 2.3m copies. And a distinct positioning is not enough to sell papers any more: a massive marketing spend and investment in editorial is required.

So will Life on Sunday, or Sunday Life as it may be called, have the right ingredients in place to be a success?

Its team is led by Nick Thompson, a former circulation director at News International. Thompson has been involved in some challenging launch activity with Sunday Business and Sport First, but the details that have emerged so far suggest it will be of little interest to advertisers.

A staff of 20 reporters, based in the North of England, will offer an alternative to the London-centric media, with long-term profits donated to charity.

An interesting alternative, but will it find its way on to press schedules? "Family values" has connotations of an older, less urban audience when advertisers want more newspapers to attract younger, metropolitan readers. And the editorial resources sound worryingly thin in such a tough Sunday market (where all titles saw their November sale fall year on year).

It's too soon to gun down this launch but its impact, should it see the light of day next year, will be nothing compared with the daily battle currently under way.

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