Archant’s launch of a ‘pop-up’ newspaper due for release this week is part of the publisher’s live market research to test a longer term plan that could see it open up additional revenue streams by launching timely titles.
The launch of the national ‘pop-up’ newspaper the New European - which will be released in Remain voting areas on Friday (8 July) - is the publisher’s attempt to tap into the Brexit conversation while it is still relevant. It comes as part of a more agile publishing strategy that will see the newspaper go from concept to market within nine days.
The publisher has described this as a “now or never” opportunity with a spokesperson adding “we are capturing a mood and riding on it [Brexit debate] but only whilst it is relevant”. Archant further added that it “absolutely would consider launching further pop-up papers”, though monetisation of such a rapid product is unclear.
The business case for pop-up publishing
Since the product is set to go to market in such a short space of time, and the subject is very timely, the publisher is subsequently putting less focus on advertising and digital spend and more on consumer demand to ensure relevancy.
As a consequence, it will not be spending millions of pounds on market research and advertising, and it will not be recruiting a specific team to work on the national. Instead, it will tap into Archant’s existing resources. This in turn means the paper has a very low cost base, so if the experiment fails, the publisher will not suffer much loss.
“We are doing it very quickly because we think the moment is now or never, and with really conservative cost base, so most of the budget is being spent on third parties.” said Matt Kelly, chief content officer of Archant and launch editor of the New European.
“The difference in approach is the idea that you can launch a new newspaper without any expectation that it is going to last for 20 years. We are only hoping it is going to be around for four weeks and then we are going to close it unless of course the audience demands is there and then we will keep it going.”
Consequently, each subsequent week following the initial four week run will act as a ‘referendum’ on the next issue, with the audience deciding when the content is no longer relevant.
“This is what we are describing as ‘pop up publishing’ - that you can come into a space with high impact but then be quite prepared to leave that space as soon as the audience shows any sign of getting bored of you.” Kelly said.
Going against the grain in digital
Cost-cutting has also come in the form of a lack of digital presence. The paper has a website where consumers can order the print edition and will shortly be able to pay for a digital download, but content will not appear on the website. An app is currently in development and going through the approval processes, but this will be for a digital edition of the paper only.
With the casualty of Trinity Mirror’s New Day earlier this year, which similarly pulled back on a dedicated online hub - instead posting directly to Facebook - Archant’s decision not to back up the new print offering with digital distribution of content is a bold move.
Mediacom’s head of press trading Adam Crow said: “You would think the most relevancy and mutual messaging without politicians involved would be digital presence. That is what I find most surprising about the PR I have read. I’m sure they have some digital strategy but you are trying to cover both ends off really, I think reverse publishing for daily messaging would work but they haven’t talked about that so I am surprised. You would be able to get the temperature of the nation digitally and then publish that weekly.”
All things considered, Archant's lack of a digital focus is unsurprising given how rapidly the newspaper is being produced. While this gives the paper greater opportunity to cut through, it also means a business model reliant on sales over advertising.
“The challenge is convincing people that it is a good thing to be part of because at the minute it is a bit of an abstract concept.” Kelly said. “Getting advertising into the first issue is tough and if you could support something with advertising that might be a more interesting opportunity but given the timescale it is tough.”
Crow added: “I’m not sure where the ad money is going to come from. If the market is down 15-20 per cent according to Enders Analysis this year which they think is going to rise to another 5 per cent decline then I’m not sure where the money's going to come from. It is not a normal market and not a normal offering so I’m not sure what will happen.”
What’s more, the publisher will have to convince advertisers on board in such a short term print lifespan.
“It is very difficult for advertisers to commit to something that doesn’t go beyond a certain issue point. What clients like to get involved in is a rapport and momentum with a media owner. If suddenly there is no audience to sell to that is a waste of money, and reflects badly on advertisers and media owners. It is important if you do attract advertisers that you manage their expectations, they are saying it will be four issues but I’m not sure I could convince clients to go into a title on that basis.” Crow said.
Is pop-up publishing the future for newspaper owners?
The New European will cost £2, considerably more than other newspapers in the market. On deciding the price point, Kelly said “it has to feel like a product that has got more than a day in it” so it felt that tagging it to the daily newspaper price points was not the right thing to do, adding “newspapers are wildly undervalued in the UK anyway”.
“Are people prepared to pay £2 on a weekly basis for something that is a daily message?” Crow said, “Especially outside London, I’m not sure in Manchester and Liverpool people would be clamoring for paid-for media. They did vote to Remain so I can understand why they want to target those areas and Archant are experts in regional titles.”
Putting a product to market in such a short space of time comes with challenges, but the publisher believes the appetite is there, hoping to tap into 16 million Remain voters ‘dismayed by old politics in traditional media’.
To identify its target audience the publisher is using a social media tool called BrandWatch, which has mapped out 200,000 people who have all attached themselves to Remain hashtags. The New European will then distribute in areas that map the Remain vote.
“That is something that is fairly unique about this project” Kelly said, “We know where our audience is and we know where it isn’t.”
“Traditional media follows traditional political lines and I don’t think they are relevant anymore. This is what I think is happening in society; it's not left versus right anymore, it's open versus closed. Expansive versus defensive. I think this is why politics is in such a tail spin, because it just doesn’t compute for them, nothing matches anymore.” he added.
“The Remain vote was right across the political spectrum, from far left to far right. There is nothing about old politics that makes sense anymore, and all of the daily newspapers in Britain are pretty well mapped into the old politics. So I don’t think that the daily newspapers did a terrific job informing this country in the run up to the election. There is nothing there that feels like it is entirely aligned with the values of quite a big chunk of that 16 million.”
The paper has clearly got a position on the European Union, but assures The Drum it does not have an agenda or manifesto, and is not campaigning for anything: “We are not ramming politics down people’s throats. That is not what it is about. There are plenty of other places for that. This is about information and entertainment and a sense of belonging,” Kelly concluded.
Archant's experiment with a 'pop-up' newspaper comes as more publishers are trying to open up additional revenue streams within their business as print ad sales and print circulation declines quicken. While its target audience is apparent and distribution areas easy to identify, time will tell if the New European will be a New Day disaster or an effective new strategy.