Scottish business daily targets ‘higher ground’

Can Business AM capture the select band of industry magnates who will secure its survival? The answer may depend on its website

This week, Business AM, the first new entrant into the Scottish daily newspaper market for 100 years, launched into decidedly choppy waters, given the intense competition among the country’s newspapers.

Editor John Penman says:”The rest of the press here has headed into the middle market … and that means they have vacated the higher ground and made space for us.”

Be that as it may, it is certainly arguable that The Herald and The Scotsman have never fully captured that small but highly influential band of Scottish captains of industry who are going to have to consider Business AM a “must read” if it is to succeed.

Bonnier, Business AM’s publisher, has done its homework. This launch has been two years in the making and the company seems prepared for the long haul. Investment in journalists has been impressive.

The timing would also appear to be auspicious. Neither of the indigenous broadsheets has managed to capitalise on the opportunity that the devolved Scottish Parliament has presented for a truly pan-Scottish newspaper of record.

Business AM, with its business and political focus, might just be able to fill that gap. However, its avowed apolitical stance may ultimately hamper its aims; it will need to be opinion-forming if it is to truly inhabit this space. In fact, it will have to go further than that and create a business community out of what is currently a number of separate interests.

The favoured method of distribution, primarily subscription at work, has been tried, tested and refined by Bonnier in its home market of Sweden and successfully rolled out to a number of small European markets.

This is a step towards the utopia of having your own personalised daily newspaper delivered to your home or e-mailed to you – an idea that Jim Chisholm, managing director of Business AM, has long advocated as the way ahead.

A complementary website will be critical to the success of this venture. It should have authority and “must bookmark” status. There is a big opportunity to hook readers in from the website.

The concept seems logical and the preparation thorough. Only a company such as Bonnier has the experience and deep enough pockets to make this work. But my main concern is whether there will be sufficient advertisers that are interested in reaching a very small – if beautifully formed – audience regularly enough to sustain a daily newspaper.

I will also be interested to see how the Financial Times reacts – Scottish fund managers are the target of some of the FT’s key advertisers. I think the sales team will have its work cut out and will need to fully exploit the potential for fully integrated campaigns for advertisers if Business AM is ultimately to succeed.

Cathy Richards is director of the regional media group at Zenith Media

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