9th February 2017

Archant - savvy Publisher proves 'Pop-Up Publishing’ can enjoy it’s moment in the sun

Media businesses scan the horizons like hawks for any opportunity to build a new audience. Recent endeavours in the UK suggest that you can't do that around a specific location or even a particular demographic. Seven months in to a lifespan that began with a four issue trial period, Archant's The New European is demonstrating that is is possible to build a new audience around a social issue.

The print newspaper, which is strident and forceful in its defence of Britain's membership of the EU, is a prime example of the kind of 'pop-up publishing' that has been enjoying a moment in the sun. Traditionally the preserve of niche magazines, both The New European and its pro-Scottish-Independence counterpart The National are examples of savvy publishers recognising the opportunity to launch new print newspapers.

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Matt Kelly, the chief content officer for Archant and editor for The New European, explains why it was vital the publication launched in the medium often derisorily referred to as 'dead tree':

"We could easily have launched a website or done it as a Facebook page; if we'd done that you and I wouldn't be having this conversation now because no-one would have noticed.

"The reason I think print was important for The New European was that people, journalists, were intrigued, interested and wanted to write for it because it was a newspaper. Secondly, there's a propensity to pay for stuff in print that there just isn't online. The only revenue model we've got really is that cover price. The last one and genuinely the most important is that a newspaper can be a form of visible anger."

He notes that the title is consistently hitting its financial targets despite there being ongoing issues around awareness of the brand, which endeavours like getting the newspaper onto retailer W. H. Smiths will help to ameliorate. He attributes that to the depth of feeling that its audience has around the issues it covers.

Tapping into that ongoing anger around the EU referendum's aftermath is central to The New European's strategy, and the primary reason that Kelly believes the pop-up title will exist for as long as Brexit remains an issue for the country, saying "if anything we're looking to grow; we definitely haven't hit the ceiling yet":

"We've been trying to get a little bit more visceral, a little bit more emotional, and get a little bit closer to the way people really feel about this issue. I don't think that what they necessarily want is that cool-headed, calm kind of intellectual thesis on life... they're looking for people who share their anger. There is a place now for being a lot clearer to your audience about where you're coming from."

Kelly argues that represents a sea-change in how journalists approach the subject matter about which they write. Whereas objectivity on a given topic used to be (and is still sometimes) considered the idealised form of journalism, he believes that taking a position is paramount to reaching and maintaining relationships with an audience, particularly its younger members:

"People's time is so limited, they want people to cut to the chase. They want newspapers that are evidently expressing an opinion they can latch onto straight away.

"With the fragmentation of media and the way we've been taken away from the necessity of the package of a newspaper by the way that content's been split up and fragmented online, people's tolerance for a broad world view without a clear position is weaker and weaker. Certainly the younger an audience gets the more directly you have to talk to them in very clear terms about what your position is."

Possible evidence for the latter point can be found in the success individual content creators have found on platforms with a younger user-base, like Snapchat and YouTube. On those platforms audience members are frequently spoken to directly by individuals who have never had to aspire to objectivity. Replicating that relationship with an audience that Kelly admits Archant has little data on is a challenge, but a strong editorial position is a good start.

But, as Aron Pilhofer forcefully argued in a Medium post yesterday, the relative quality of a print product is almost wholly unrelated to "the business of keeping lights on in U.S. newsrooms".

Winter is still coming for print revenues, particularly on the ad front. While The New European is more protected from that than most print publications, being sustained largely by circulation revenue, it still makes for a competitive environment from which it's hard to eke revenue. Consequently The New European's team are looking at other potential money-spinning opportunities.

Given that ad-spend forecasts put live events as being the area marketers are most increasing their spend in and the viability of live events around the EU referendum being proven by protests, it's unsurprising that The New European should be looking at the possibility of launching their own events. Kelly said that those could take the format of ticketed debates between four or five relevant public figures, or a 'Brexit festival' on the anniversary of The New European's launch:

"We've been talking a lot about 'how do you take this quite abstract community of readers and bring them together very literally'? Where you've got this level of engagement around this topic then you've got the opportunity to do an event."

If nothing else, though, that The New European has run for seven times longer than its trial length with a plan for the rest of the year at least is demonstrable that print as a medium might not be dead - just that thinking around how and when it is used needs to change.

Written by Chris Sutcliffe, February 8th 2017, originally published on The Media Briefing… Read the original article here

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