Getting down to Business Seven
Stuart Bell, trading director, Feather Brooksbank
A cursory glance at the media headlines and negative stories surrounding newspapers might lead you to think Trinity Mirror are mad to launch the Business7 newspaper in this climate. Well I am a great fan of newspapers and don't accept this negativity.
The internet cannot take all the blame for the circulation decline in newspapers, owners who are "giving up the ghost" must take some responsibility.
Inertia, fatalism and cost-cutting have led to the recent scare stories with many press owners spending so much time discussing the dangers rather than looking for the opportunities around the corner.
The facts don't lie. Newspaper circulations worldwide rose 2.3 per cent in 2006, while advertising revenues showed substantial gains. In the UK with the introduction of the new breed of free papers more people than ever before are reading a newspaper.
Business7 will be distributed free each Friday morning to 20,000 business professionals across Scotland. Distribution will be in places of work, at key commuter points (main line rail stations and airports) plus selected desk drops for key executives. The new newspaper will be targeting "work hard, play hard ambitious young professionals."
The first issue hit the desks on Friday October 5 but pre-launch publicity was muted. I remember the days when the launch of a newspaper was a big event and had the industry buzzing. So on the launch morning as I sat with a large group of "work hard, play hard ambitious young professionals" from the advertising industry having a bacon roll prior to the start of the NABS golf day, the lack of discussion about this new paper was, in my mind, a disappointing start.
However, on arriving at my desk on the Monday morning, there was a pile of 23 copies sitting on reception which was my first opportunity to see the paper.
My first impression was positive as the front page was clearly laid out with strong signposting to all the articles throughout the paper, although on the downside it feels a bit "flimsy" with only 24 pages.
While the stories were interesting enough I certainly didn't get the feeling I was reading something new or insightful. The second half of the newspaper included the standard sections of Commercial Property, Recruitment, Travel, Money, Motoring and Sport. In my view this was too ambitious as only one page was dedicated to each category which means poor coverage compared to the long established sections of competitors. If you are a business paper then stick to business stories.
With regards to the advertising content then, I was surprised by the number of "filler advertisements," as other launches have seen a clamour from the industry to appear in the first issue.
So will it survive? Advertisers are generally cautious, they follow the readers and buy into the numbers and profile the paper delivers. As readership data will not be available until next year the first few months are vital for the paper to get off to a good start. Advertisers do want a successful paper that delivers this elusive audience, so for that I wish them well.
However, I believe the success of this paper will be dependent on the reason for launching. If it was a forward thinking strategy to utilize technology and distribution methods with a strong investment in editorial content then it will survive. If it was purely a defensive mechanism to get in there before anyone else then it will be difficult. I hope it was the former and not the latter.
Ewan Gillies, director, Media Vision
As marketers of media we should applaud innovation at all levels. I like Business7 and its corresponding website and it is certainly innovative.
I think the tone is pitched exactly right with no self-preaching or stuffy commentary that you read in other titles. The pace is good and is complemented by a fresh open design.
I can understand what Trinity Mirror is trying to do with its portfolio in terms of layering and segmenting the marketplace with a range of products to attract new audiences. Business7 fits strategically and neatly between Insider Magazine and Metro complementing what Trinity Mirror is already doing in Scotland.
Business7's distribution seems to have got off to a good start, I received a copy in George Street in Edinburgh last Friday and had copies delivered to the office this Friday so appreciated that targeting people near and at their place of work seemed to be the best distribution methodology; minimising wastage and maximising audience delivery.
This is the system also now being employed by CityAM in London as they move from 100 per cent street vending to targeted office distribution.
We need to be more optimistic and positive about business in Scotland. Having a fresh, bright new platform can only help improve coverage of Scottish business. The Entrepreneurial Exchange and SABAAT each do their bit but the profile of Scottish business across all sectors can always do with a lift.
Its early days but it's always great to see new developments coming to market. We as a marketing industry should support such innovation.
Morven Gow, associate director, The Media Shop Scotland
First impressions of the newbie free business paper are very positive - clean looking and sharp, with interesting, wide ranging content. In the agency, it gets a big thumbs-up (technical media jargon).
Launching into a competitive morning marketplace, it's in competition with all the other morning newspapers plus the morning email bulletins, luring us to newspaper web sites. Rather than target business people on their way into work on a Friday morning, its aim is to get into the hands of the "work hard, play hard, ambitious young business professional" when they arrive in the office lobby or at their desk.
At the same time, it is to be a "must read for senior executives and decision makers in key organisations across Scotland." To satisfy both groups is a tough balancing act but we think it manages to do so.
16,000 copies should have been delivered directly to selected businesses across the central belt, Aberdeen and Dundee on the morning of Friday October 5 to reach this aspiring younger end. Another 2,000 were available in first class compartments in trains and airport business lounges. 1,000 copies were to be delivered to hotels, coffee shops, selected car dealerships, exhibition and conference centres. Another 1,000 should have been posted to named senior decision makers. And finally, 5,000 to 6,000 copies were to be handed out at key commuting points in cities.
Frustratingly, a quick email poll around a selection of clients revealed that very few actually saw the Business7 launch copy. Those who did catch the paper, reported far too many copies delivered to their companies. Our copies arrived after lunch and were too many. The good news is that those clients who did read through the paper were very positive towards it.
As Trinity Mirror's sales staff point out, this launch is a soft one. A 20,000 copy circulation is a toe in the water to check the temperature. I see the newspaper's web site developing to play a major role. Currently, the news reflects what is printed in the weekly paper. How about daily morning news bulletins sent out to online subscribers a la Business am? This would build visitor numbers to the web site and make it a real commercial proposition.
While we don't want to see Business7 going the same way as Business am, developing the character of the web site should make economic sense to build a substantial combined community of both online and hard copy readers.
Our only concern - admittedly, a big one - is about the method of newspaper distribution, but this should be answered with a certificate in a few weeks. If Trinity Mirror then focussed quickly on developing the Business7 web site over the next few weeks, concerns over newspaper delivery would be less vocal.
Andrew Dunn, business director, Mediacom,
With 20,000 copies distributed first thing on Friday mornings at transport links and to certain offices across Scotland, it's a significant addition to the Scottish national newspaper market. Friday is both vital for sales and the day The Scotsman and The Herald carry their all-important weekly recruitment sections. The new title will also counter the anticipated launch of a Scottish edition of London free business daily, City AM.
Trinity Mirror have gained previous experience in the free market from Record PM and Scottish Metro, however this launch represents a departure from either of these titles. Fundamental to this proposition, is that this represents a positive step within Trinity Mirror's multi-media ambitions: Launched simultaneously, was a Scottish business news website - Business7.co.uk. Offering interactive features, it carries daily business news, discussion forums and business blogs, generating genuine interaction. The site is clean, easy to navigate, accessible and, as with on-line in general, able to carry the latest news as it breaks. The print copy will summarise the weekly news, help set the agenda for the week ahead and act as the physical embodiment of what is going on online. See this not as another free title launch with an online format, but as a website backed with a very effective marketing tool!
The closure of the ill-fated, but much loved Business am, the Edinburgh-based paper launched in September 2000, may appear to provide conclusive proof that a daily business and financial newspaper focusing on Scotland will never be economically viable. If a title of the un-doubted quality of Business am backed with the financial might of the Bonnier group couldn't make it, then what chance Business7? However, a direct comparison to Business am is unfair. The economic mis-management that besieged the title has been well documented; its launch (and closure) coincided with an advertising downturn and the collapse of the technology sector. And, crucially, it was paid-for and printed five days a week.
The key objective behind the launch of Business7 is to produce highly relevant and appealing print and online products to reach a desirable and hard to reach, high spending and influential audience, an audience notoriously difficult to reach and one that is highly desirable to advertisers. All-in-all they have achieved this.
Yes, the content in the launch edition can be criticised and there is a danger in attempting to supply so many different business sectors, without opportunity for depth or scale, they end up with a bland product without insight or tangible benefit. But, contact can be developed and adapted, and with the experience of Trinity Mirror behind it then it's a fair bet they will get it right. What sets this apart is its genuine multi-media approach. Trinity Mirror has launched a product that has considered its audiences lifestyle and media habits, and this gives it the opportunity of success where others have failed. With the demise of mainstream news media just around the corner, according to doom and gloom merchants, I believe any new Scottish title is to be welcomed.