The New European review: Britain's newest newspaper was conceived in just nine days – but how long will it last?
Something of a nine-day wonder (conceived, designed and printed in just nine days), The New European is the UK's first serious attempt at a pop-up newspaper and one born out of the UK's momentous Brexit vote.
With an initial print run of 200,000 (bigger than the Guardian) and priced at a hefty two quid, today's launch will be watched closely by other publishers intrigued over whether the British public is a ripe target for the pop-up concept.
Publisher Archant, whose stable of relatively successful East Anglian mainstream titles means there is limited financial risk in the experiment, has produced – as promised – a newspaper clearly aimed at the 48 per cent of voters who backed remain in the EU referendum and bitterly resent and fear for the UK's future post-Brexit.
Also available via online purchase, the print title is clearly aimed at remain voters in cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Cardiff, Leicester, Norwich, Cambridge and Bristol where remain carried the day on 23 June and where 'despair' (the paper's word) is now the overriding mood music. But the publisher is at pains to point out that it is also pushing it in areas like Wales and the North East where disillusioned, disadvantaged (often Labour) voters were crucial in Brexit's victory.
Initially, Archant has promised a minimum of four Friday issues with its longer term future (or lack of it) dictated by sales figures and reader response.
In the words of editor Matt Kelly: “Every issue will be a collector's item. After issue four, every week's sale will be a 'referendum' on the next.”
The lighting speed launch, Kelly says, was inspired by the “failure of much of the mainstream press to reflect Remain voters' views.”
While there is undoubtedly some justification for the New European's contention that mainstream national titles “failed” their readers, the partisan nature of the UK press landscape can hardly have surprised voters. Nor can it be blamed for the fact that too many young voters (largely pro-Remain) failed to actually vote compared to those in their 50s, 60s and above.
No doubt, at some point down the line, academic researchers will produce a study purporting to show how much (or how little) partisan UK newspapers influenced the Brexit result in these times of declining circulations and escalating social media debate.
Archant proudly proclaims that its nine-day wonder is the “fastest-created British newspaper in history”. And it's not a claim I'd dispute by any means.
I'd also agree that, to a very large extent, The New European lives up to its pre-launch hype of “providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as a celebration of European life and culture from acclaimed journalists and experts.” (Ah yes, the ‘expert’ word, clearly a calculated dig at the Brexit pitch of its departed hero Boris Johnson and his equally ill-fated Brutus, Michael Gove.)
With thoughtful articles by the likes of the Guardian's Jonathan Friedland, James Brown of Loaded and GQ fame and Tanit Koch, editor of Europe's biggest selling title Bild, the journalist roll call looks impressive.
And contributions from the likes of Simon Calver, ex-chief of Mothercare, and prominent venture capitalist Saul Klein, talking about “how disconnected they realised they had become from ordinary people” adds another valuable dynamic to the mix.
But the real test will surely be whether the New European can live up to editor Matt Kelly's declaration of hope that readers will proudly and publicly carry it “like a badge of honour”. (One tabloid executive contact somewhat cynically observed: “At two quid, I think you'd be safer hiding it in case you got mugged by someone figuring you had to be a fat cat to pay that much for a vanity project!”
Unlike Trinity Mirror's ill-fated New Day venture, I'd give The New European a better chance of a longer lifespan.
Its audience targeting looks spot on, provided (and this is the very big caveat) there is a big enough community of passionate remainers willing to fork out £2 every Friday.
But what might augur well for the New European's prospects is that I get the overwhelming impression that remainers (whether they bothered to vote or not) have suddenly post-Brexit's victory developed a greater sense of passion of the kind that was far more pronounced among the Brexiters before 23 June. Sad but true is the feedback I keep receiving from (mainly) young remainers shamefacedly admitting they didn't bother to vote because they believed the final polls forecasting that remain had pulled clear again and were set to win and retain the EU status quo.
To its credit, the New European management team have injected enough variety and humour into what is essentially a very serious project to broaden its appeal.
With European-related coverage of subjects like fashion, football and the arts, it isn't an overly po-faced product.
Quite a bold step too to feature a giant cartoon about dogs and the referendum outcome on page one – although hardly an offering likely to win over any determined Brexit voters!
I suspect, too, that the launch vow NOT to feature contributions from politicians might not be sustainable. If Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Corbyn, David Cameron, George Osborne (or even Bojo and his Brutus) offered to write for it (fee-free, of course) would Matt Kelly seriously turn them away? Politicos are, after all, those who got us into the Brexit imbroglio and politicos are the ones who are going to have to solve the problems, one way or the other.
What also fascinates me is that, partly by design, partly by accident, the New European might just have plugged into a significant mood shift in public opinion.
Mass demos and parliamentary petitions apart, the launch comes just days after research by Opinium (just about the only pollsters to call the Brexit result right) suggested that around 1.2 million leave voters now wish they'd voted the other way.
Anecdotally, that echoed a hefty response I got to my column in The Drum arguing for remain but predicting a narrow Brexit victory and why and where that would happen. The response from those we now tag 'regrexits' stunned me.
Similarly when I did a BBC radio interview along those lines, the caller phone-in lines buzzed heavily from the sudden 'regrexit' tendency, admitting they voted Brexit for a potpourri of protest motives, often unconnected directly to the EU itself, and got the result they didn't expect or really want anyway.
Funnily enough, straight after that interview I went to meet friends for lunch at a hostelry close to Great Ormond Street Hospital. At the bar, after finishing their shift, was a group of young doctors and nurses. In the centre was a tearful young woman doctor apologising profusely to her colleagues for voting for Brexit (as a protest against the government over the NHS). “But I didn't expect leave to win, I just wanted to kick Jeremy Hunt, but I really feel European and now I feel a total moron,” she confessed.
Quite how all this plays out into the narrative of how the UK exits the EU (or even if actually in the end Brexit at all) is the biggest question of our time. For what's it's worth, I'd forecast that if the referendum were to be re-run now the result would go the other way by around the same margin as 23 June.
Whether the growing regrexit mood makes a valid case for a second referendum is all set to test parliamentarians on all sides in both the Commons and Lords in the tricky days, months and years ahead.
Archant strategists are counting on the rising passion level of the remainers offering the potential that even if a relatively small percentage of the 16m remain voters decide to support the New European then it could a winner. Not to mention, presumably, the added opportunity offered by the regrexiters and their sense of 'guilt'?
That may well determine whether the New European is a nine-day wonder of the worst kind or proves something of a modern media miracle with a longer lifespan than the soothsayers predict.
Paul Connew is a media commentator, broadcaster, former editor of the Sunday Mirror, ex-deputy editor of the Daily Mirror and The Drum columnist who supported remain while forecasting why, where and how Brexit were set to win narrowly