I don’t know this Tom Rubython bloke about whom everybody is getting so
excited. Actually, that’s not strictly true. He once abused me down the
phone (but then so have lots of people) describing all of us at Campaign
Not that I hold it against him; it was, after all, only a row over a
trifling incident. Since then, of course, I have met other people who
know him and everybody is agreed: he’s difficult to ignore and has a
vivid imagination - witness a story in the dummy issue of Sunday
Business about Lords White and Hanson arguing about a putative bid:
White, of course, died last year.
But all that, I think, is the man’s style and it’s certainly what he
needs if he is going to make a splash with his new project. You need a
bit of mouth and trousers and a lot of drive to carry something like
But in his strength lies a potential weakness. Rubython can’t keep his
hands off anything. He wants to write the stories, the headlines, take
the pictures and sell the ads. If he had a John Bull set he’d print the
damn thing himself too. Like many who start projects, he may not be the
best person to carry it on.
Now I’ve seen the dummy and I like it. It’s clean, an easy read and
there are a few good ideas in it, particularly the computer and IT
section. But there’s a sort of breathless enthusiasm which elevates
everybody it writes about - from some nonentity who runs a helicopter
company to even dear old Peter de Savary - to hero status. It’s very 80s
and rather wearisome. But you can see why Rubython does it; would-be
tycoons like flattery.
The sceptics, though, question whether anybody wants a six-section
business read on a Sunday. They may be right. Rubython himself says his
new paper is very much a second read to the Sunday Times business
section, hence his comparatively modest target of 150,000 circulation.
In fact, I don’t really see it as a rival or complement to the other
Sunday business sections. If you look at the staff he’s hired it’s
pretty obvious what the plan is. They’re going to rip all the best
stories they can out of the trade press and make them general-interest
business features. This is a smart idea - there is a lot of good
newsworthy stuff in the trade press.
But it’s one thing to produce a paper that’ll pick up 150,000 buyers,
it’s quite another to get the advertising revenue that a large staff and
West End offices demand. My view is that business-to-business
advertisers don’t have the budgets to support the national press, and I
fear that Sunday Business just won’t excite the media-buying community
sufficiently to get on the schedule for much, even as an afterthought or
top-up. One experienced press buyer, though, reckons Sunday Business
could easily displace titles such as the Guardian and the Independent
for those marginal buys.
But what do I know? I gave the Big Breakfast six months and look at it