It used to be assumed that fear was the key in business publishing. To succeed, so the theory ran, you convinced your target market that there was a penalty for not paying attention. That it might be an idea to read what the boss was reading and keep in touch with what major clients were thinking. Not just a good read, in other words, but a must read.
It's a fear factor that you often find reinforced in The Economist's award-winning advertising - such as the 'I don't read The Economist' poster ascribed to a management trainee, aged 42. And anxiety was one of the reasons why, in the days when The Sunday Times business section was definitely a must read, you'd see so many harassed-looking commuters reading it on the way to work first thing on a Monday morning. They knew they had to read the thing but they weren't going to let it spoil their Sunday.
And that, you could argue, has always been the uphill struggle faced by Sunday Business. Last year it surprised many in the industry by pushing its circulation up above the 75,000 mark under the former editor Jeff Randall. This January, its sale was back down to just below 54,000, representing a year-on-year fall of 9.5 per cent.
Is there a gap of any sort in the Sunday market? Does the target market really want a day off or is it champing at the bit? Sunday Business clearly believes in the latter - which is why it is relaunching this Sunday, backed by a TV campaign from M&C Saatchi.
It appears that its emphasis is changing slightly - as evidenced by the fact that the main product innovation is a 64-page colour magazine. The paper's editor, Nils Pratley, believes that the magazine will be a big selling point.
'The magazine will feature fashion, travel, motoring, health, food and drink. It will have three or four major articles branded as 'the world through business eyes' - one will be personality-based, another will be an investigative article and the third will be lighter - but it will not have a narrow perspective. An article on travel, for instance, will not be about business travel; it will reflect the fact that travel in general is something of great interest to our readers.'
Last year's policy was to broaden the paper's coverage - for instance, by covering sport. The thinking back then was that if you broaden the paper's scope, you may broaden its appeal. Also, it increases the chances that readers can make do with just Sunday Business - they wouldn't have to buy a second title to get their sports fix. But sport is a casualty of the relaunch. Is that symptomatic of a new focus? 'We had a choice between sports and a glossy magazine reflecting life through business eyes and we felt that the latter would be a bigger proposition from the point of view of our readers. It doesn't mean we're going to stop covering sport, just that when we do, it will be the sport as a business rather than match reports,' Pratley says.
Is this a winning formula? The market has its sceptics. The Financial Times has been partially successful in its attempts to colonise the weekend, thus proving that it's not just a desk-bound newspaper. But although its Saturday edition also carries a Sunday dateline and is padded out with lots of well-heeled leisure editorial, it obviously offers nothing in the way of news for the Sunday breakfast table. The FT has steered clear of the Sunday market, probably because the other Sunday broadsheets have done just enough to cover their backs. What's more, Sunday has not generally been a happy hunting ground for newspapers in recent years.
But the Saturday edition does pretty well, although its sale is lower than on weekdays. Is the main Sunday Business goal, however, to convert more Saturday FT readers? Not necessarily, Pratley says: 'The FT has a UK circulation of 200,000 on a Saturday and, of course, we would like more of them to read us but it's not just FT readers that we're going for. We're a livelier read than the FT - that's a function of the type of paper we are and the day of the week we publish on. In terms of new readers, we want more women, younger readers and more readers who are interested in the new economy - and we're keeping up our commitment to coverage of that sector. In circulation terms, one obvious benchmark would be our high of last year (around 75,000). We would love to get back over that.'
Nick Hurrell, M&C Saatchi's joint chief executive, says that, in ad terms, the proposition is pretty straightforward: 'The product is extremely sound but the brand is relatively non-existent. Our job is to move it from the product to the brand. Those who read it like it very much - it gets huge approval ratings. We need to create a more regular purchase and widen the purchase even further. I'm not at all sure that FT readers are the issue here. If business is important to you, then it's also your hobby and you want to know absolutely everything there is to know. You'll buy all the necessary papers and you'll forward to them on a Sunday. But Sunday Business offers more in-depth material than the FT and it appeals more to a younger, fresher, more savvy audience. The theme of the advertising is mixing business with pleasure - as well as focusing on business analysis, it will focus on the upside of business as well.'
Will it work? Cilla Rogan, the press buying director of Media Planning, hopes so. She agrees that it's an excellent product: 'The content is good, its finger is clearly on the pulse and it has some impressive scoops. But it appeals to a very niche, discrete audience. So, for most, it has to be a second purchase and from a purely media planning point of view, that means you put it on a schedule for frequency rather than coverage.'
But is there scope to drive forward circulation? Rogan believes so: 'It's true - you might expect more of the FT's readership to buy it because the stories it has must be of great interest to those who work in the City. You have to suspect that maybe they would be buying it if they knew about it. It has to raise its profile with the right audience. It might also help raise ad revenue if it raised its profile with ad agencies.'
Iain Jacob, the UK managing director of Starcom Motive, states: 'I'd agree that as a product it's extremely focused and it's a case of the product being far stronger than the brand. In the short term an advertising campaign will help that, but the question is really whether it's a long-term business proposition. The issue is about the nature of how it's consumed and it's an overload question really - business people, especially at the high end, have an enormous amount of stuff to take on board. There are a lot of strong products around. It's a tough one to crack.'