Late last month the North West Enquirer launched promising to “celebrate the diversity of the North West in its very different cultures.” The newspaper, the brainchild of Insider founder Nick Jaspan, will cover the entire North West from Manchester to Carlisle. Something of a tall order, we are sure you will agree.
The paper will take the guise of an 80-page weekly newspaper (with an additional 48-page supplement), has a cover price of £1 and is aiming to attract the most coveted of advertising categories: the professional AB category. Jaspan is also aiming to get a weekly readership of around 15,000- 20,000.
Sitting down with Jaspan prior to launch, he is calm though understandably anxious to get the first paper on news stands.
So where did the idea for the paper come from? Jaspan explains: “I have been itching to do something like this for years and years. But the idea to do a weekly originally came from wanting to do a daily and then my bottle started to go. It was another journalist who started to steer me this way. I thought at first that it wasn’t going to be big enough to really capture the North West but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. It has a lower cost and also if it is weekly it gives you time to alter things if stuff starts to go awry. It suits the audience; the AB focus audience is busy and the idea of a weekly that they can take ten minutes or maybe half an hour to look at it allows us to dig away at them.
Jaspan is ambitious, however, in his desire to sell around 15,000 copies of the paper on a weekly basis. But, he is of the firm belief that this figure is achievable, stating: “The Sunday Times sells 130,000 copies in the North West alone and we are wanting to get perhaps 15, 000 of those readers. The Sunday Times is totally London-centric whereas our paper won’t be. The nearest equivalent that I would compare the paper to would be the Sunday Herald or Scotland on Sunday. And taking out that whole national/regional thing (Scotland only has 5 million people to seven and half in our area) we are targeting an AB area, albeit on a Thursday, and the Sunday Herald are selling 65,000 and Scotland on Sunday is about 70-75000. People think that we are being too ambitious wanting 20,000. But think about how many people buy The Sunday Times and a lot of people don’t like that thinking it is too right wing, too London.”
Jaspan has lined up an impressive team for the “seven figure” newspaper launch, with former Guardian journalist Bob Waterhouse at the helm editorially. The board consists of chairman Sir David Trippier, a former Conservative MP for Rossendale, and is joined by non-executive directors Stephen Parker, a former MD for Trinity Mirror’s regional newspapers and David Henshaw, the former chief executive of Liverpool City Council.
Prior to the launch a dummy copy was created, the design of the paper being completed by Manchester-based design agency Glorious. Jaspan admitted that before the dummy was available sales had been hard, though he was optimistic that the advertising rates were right. He stated: “At the moment we are concept selling. Agencies are very conservative when it comes to that. They always say that it is other people’s money that they are spending but I am not convinced of that. You can get caught up in goodwill and feedback but you have to look at what the sales figures are and up to about two weeks ago I don’t think that there was anything on the board.
“If we had had twenty to thirty grand booked in I would have been happy but surprised.”
Yet Jaspan is convinced that he has the rates set at the right price: “We are about the same price as the Daily Post, maybe slightly higher, and a third of the Evening News. In the business plan we put figures that were towards the bottom end, slightly higher than the weeklies and substantially lower than the dailies. But our sales team went out and talked to agencies and gradually the prices got higher.”
The paper has spent a “six figure budget” on pre- launch campaigns that include 48- and 96-sheet posters courtesy of Manchester-based Citigate Smarts. There have also been a number of PR-related meetings in the three key centres that the paper will invade: Manchester Liverpool and Preston. Meanwhile, Jaspan has also brought in the services of PR stalwart Paul Carroll in order to advise them on key PR strategies.
What will also be key to the newspaper’s success, says Jaspan, is getting in with the retailers on the ground level. He commented: “We have spent a lot of time with wholesalers and retailers as it is important to get the message to them.
“We are spending a six figure sum, with the FT taking a slice of the cover price, and they are writing to all the retailers advising them of the launch. And we have some tricks to incentivise both retailers and also readers after launch to encourage home delivery. A lot of effort is going on and I hope that we are using the budget well; a modest six figure line.”
On the whole Jaspan is more than optimistic that the paper will be a success, even if there have been certain camps doubting this. He comments: “People have been extremely positive – people say it is a risk that we are taking. But if it wasn’t a risk someone would have done it before and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to make some money.”
Only time will tell whether this risky strategy will indeed pay off for Jaspan.