Or is a crowded niche too narrow for three papers? Alasdair Reid
Three weeks ago, as New Nation, the new black weekly newspaper, began
its prelaunch countdown, the Weekly Journal decided to get its welcome
in early. ‘Hasta la vista, Murdoch!’ was the heading of the Weekly
Journal’s press release, explaining how it would see off the new threat.
Murdoch? The man really does move in mysterious ways. Unfortunately
we’re not talking about Rupert. The Murdoch in question is his daughter,
Elisabeth. Or, to be even more accurate, her husband, Elkin Pianim, who
runs a company called Idaho Partners - one of New Nation’s backers.
It’s a shame - the Digger moving in on the UK African-Caribbean press
sector would have been a great story - but then one of the charms of the
papers in this sector is that they often elevate paranoia and conspiracy
theory into an artform.
Digger or no Digger, is the market right to be worried about New Nation,
which launched last week? The first issue was a 64-page tabloid with on
the-run colour facility and an introductory cover price of 25p. It joins
a weekly market inhabited by the Weekly Journal and, more importantly,
the Voice, the market leader with an ABC of 41,928. Although the Weekly
Journal has been around, on and off, for a while, it doesn’t have an ABC
- it was originally owned by the Voice, was closed in 1995 and was
revived as recently as September of this year under independent
ownership. Its claimed circulation is 30,000.
Is there room for all three - especially when there are also a number of
small publications in this market, including the Weekly Gleaner,
Caribbean Times and Ovations magazine? New Nation will focus on a new,
more measured brand of journalism.
‘Our circulation target is 30,000 but there is the potential to go
beyond 50,000,’ the New Nation’s publisher, Tetteh Kofi, insists. ‘The
combined circulations of the titles in this sector have added up to
something around 60,000. In our market, there are 270,000 households in
London alone - there are more people who don’t read the dedicated press
than those who do. The problem is that they aren’t covered in the right
tone of voice. We will provide a balanced view of the reality of the
experience of black Britons.’
So who’s worried? The Weekly Journal’s publisher, Isabel Appio, says
that the ‘Hasta la vista’ press release was a bit of fun but adds,
rather pointedly, that she is flattered that the new title is trying to
copy hers. Adam Long, the head of marketing and circulation at the
Voice, maintains that competition could create a vibrant market, though
he doesn’t believe there’s room for three big weeklies.
‘There is circulation potential in the market but the other titles will
also need advertising and we are the brand with the reputation and
status in the market,’ he says. ‘There are only so many ways you can
divide up the cake.’
And it’s not that big a market. One of the problems that the
sector has always faced is the reluctance of mainstream display
advertisers to come on board - the mainstay for these papers has always
been equal opportunities recruitment advertising.
Kofi says that his title will be attractive to mainstream display
advertisers. Yvonne Thompson, a director of ASAP, the UK’s largest
specialist black agency, thinks he could be right. ‘The circulation
potential is there,’ she points out. ‘And because of its positioning,
New Nation could attract advertising that the Voice has never had. I
hope all three can survive but I’m not sure there is room. The Weekly
Journal is the one that should be worried - in my opinion it has been
heading too far upmarket. New Nation has a good positioning and I think
on the evidence so far, it is a meatier read.’