Brendan Callaghan, media director for Brilliant Birmingham reviews The Birmingham Press, the newly launched freesheet for the city.
The shop window of any publication is its front page. The main masthead with variations of font looks strong but this is let down by a graphic of an antelope which my eight-year-old nephew could; have drawn. You also have to question the decision to have a ‘cash for gold’ ad on the front page solus slot. Not only is it the launch edition but the paper is supposedly targeting a middle class affluent audience and this just makes the front page look a bit low rent.
Inside it looks good. The layout is nice and clean. The ad clutter is kept to a minimum so advertising stands out. The articles are varied but will be of interest and relevance to the audience. An emphasis is placed on local news and politics over national, a generous volume of space has been given over to arts and leisure, not only in its dedicated section but within local news. It’s a novel idea to create interest in the ads by having a ‘search for Bobby’ (the antelope) competition inside. Although I am not too sure how many clients or agencies would be happy to see their carefully crafted ads appear with added antelope.
There are some distinct similarities between the Press and the Post. The Press People slots with photos of the local dignitaries and business people look to be a direct lift from the Birmingham Post and its Post People. But there are some clear differences. The Press’ sports section with its emphasis on golf, cricket and rugby is refreshing and is a good illustration as to who the paper is aimed at. You have to go back eight pages to find an article on football despite the paper being distributed a few days before the second city derby. And a clear point of differentiation is its approach to business editorial, surprisingly light with only four pages out of a total pagination of 128. Talking of business, only one page of recruitment advertising, have they just not been able to sell the space or is this yet another illustration as to how much recruitment advertisers are moving away from press to online?
At the end of the day the success of the title will depend on the money generated from its Property section. The Property section is nicely laid out. The houses as you would expect look gorgeous and expensive. The papers design allows each house to show off its best sides. There are also some good in-depth aspirational features within the supplement supported by quality stock photos. It is a vehicle well designed to sell houses.
Will the newspaper be a success? Yes I think it will as a freesheet. I cannot see too many people spending a £1 to buy it on a regular basis. As a vehicle for delivering the all important Property section it has all the ingredients to succeed. Will it attract the high quality branding ads you associate with the audience they are trying to reach? I am not too sure nor do I think they will lose too much sleep if they don’t. Yes it does have some interesting and well written articles. There is obvious care and consideration as to the layout of the newspaper. But as long as they can generate the interest from property clients the newspaper will keep on running. The big question after that is whether Birmingham can support two freesheets targeting this affluent audience. Who will blink first Trinity Mirror or Mr Bullivant?