MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE; Sunday Business may be ruined by Rubython’s vanity

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 as ‘scum’.

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

as ‘scum’.



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

this off.



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

now.



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