OPINION: UK news waits for no publisher to launch a title

One of the industry’s worst-kept secrets is BBC Worldwide’s longstanding plan to create a weekly current affairs magazine. Every two months or so someone tells me that the Beeb is just about to give birth to this baby, but sources inside the company are always at pains to scotch the rumours.

One of the industry’s worst-kept secrets is BBC Worldwide’s

longstanding plan to create a weekly current affairs magazine. Every two

months or so someone tells me that the Beeb is just about to give birth

to this baby, but sources inside the company are always at pains to

scotch the rumours.



The company’s nervousness is understandable, after all, this is one of

the world’s most powerful brands and putting out a poor news magazine

could certainly put a minor dent in the organisation’s reputation. There

is also an argument to say that the growth of the internet puts the

kibosh on weekly offline news delivery. But these concerns should not

stand in the way - a UK-based current affairs magazine is long

overdue.



There are few obviously unfilled niches in publishing, but this must be

one of them. Just last week I was having a bevvy with a South African

visitor who had equipped himself with the most recent edition of The

Rough Guide to London. The section on UK media contains the following

sentence: ’When it comes to specialist periodicals, London newsagents

offer a range covering just about every subject, the one noticeably poor

area being current events.’ It then goes on to give an appraisal of the

five terrestrial TV stations, which draws pretty much the same

conclusions.



There are many reasons for this shortfall in news coverage and analysis,

the main one being that sex, scandal, entertainment and sport sell in a

way that news does not. But a quick look at the revenues being raked in

by Time and Newsweek - automatic ports of call for almost any national

press campaign in the US - shows that interestingly presented news

content can still pull in the punters.



BBC Worldwide is perfectly positioned to deliver a current affairs

magazine and could tie it in with its core web services. It needn’t be

obviously branded in order to appeal to the punters but it would take

advantage of the BBC’s reputation as far as the media agencies are

concerned. But it seems the company’s attention is focused on its new

women’s magazine instead. As one head of press reflected this week: ’The

women’s magazines are good and although we like to see the market

expand, we would be far more interested in a really good current affairs

magazine. We have vehicles to target women, we don’t have nearly as many

vehicles to reach the kind of audience delivered by a Time-type

magazine.’



Private Eye’s choice of a new external sales house last week prompted

talk of the Eye’s audience. More than 70 per cent of its readers are

male, and its AB profile is far higher than The Guardian’s. Imagine if

someone created a glossier, more advertiser-friendly version with big

features as well as great sniping snippets - it would surely be a real

money spinner.



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