I was wrong about The News on Sunday
This might just happen, I reckon, contrary to a previous blog that Media Week ran rubbishing the idea as about as likely Desmond spending an evening of revelry with the Daily Mail’s Paul Dacre.
The reason for the change of mind: Dougals and Howell seem hell-bent on making this happen.
Media Week ran a story this week saying that discussions are ongoing between Desmond and Howell and Douglas, about a proposal which would see the pair pick up the title for around £10m and then rebrand it with the new name, The News on Sunday.
For £10m they would be picking up the title and presumably printing and distribution assets, which is likely to mean they could circumvent a financially ruinous long-term printing contract. That is if Desmond allows them.
In theory, they will also have the 470,000 Daily Star Sunday readers as a base, if they can convince them to cross over to the title.
Will Desmond sell? Well, from a financial point of view he doesn’t need to. But Desmond will be thinking long-term and what benefit there is holding on to a flagging red-top in the future?
Like other newspapers, The Daily Star Sunday is haemorrhaging readers but more pressingly is in a battle with the Sun on Sunday and Sunday Mirror which it has no realistic chance of winning.
In March this year the Guardian reported that executives at Northern & Shell were questioning whether the Daily Star Sunday was still a viable propostion in the Sunday market given the return of News International to the Sunday market and N&S’s own strategy of looking for easy win cuts across the business.
OK, so flogging the Daily Star Sunday would demoralise employee morale across the N&S group while externally people would no doubt question Desmond’s commitment to the Express titles and Channel 5.
But as long as the N&S presses are running at night with The News on Sunday, Desmond is likely to put up with a bit of internal unrest.
If Desmond doesn’t buy it, what about the other “distressed” titles as Douglas calls them targeted, the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday?
Less likely I would have thought. The People is central to Trinity Mirror in a way the Daily Star Sunday is not to N&S while the Lebedevs are not in the market for selling.
An equally likely outcome is the pair launching a paper from scratch and printing it from one of the existing newspaper’s printing presses.
This would be a more expensive option but it would avoid the knotty problem of rebranding .
So what of the paper itself? In short, it will be purified News of the World, full of sex, scandal, and exclusives, all the stories acquired by legitimate means. They even have a crack team of hack-free journalist poised ready to go.
There is around 2.5m readers out there who have disappeared since the closure of the News of the World- readers who likes their Sundays full of sex and scandal and are currently unsatisfied by rival titles.
So maybe Howell and Douglas could be on to something. The big question, I guess, is can journalists get these sort of stories on a regular basis by legal means? And if so, are those 2.5m readers ready to be snapped up or have they disappeared for good.
The crux of this whole enterprise is dependant on funding, or lack of it. Howell and Douglas have around £7m funding at the moment, which is short of their £12m goal.
I still think this is way short of what is needed to start up a paper, but I could be wrong.
If they can get more funding, then the plan is for some sort of flotation.
It seems a worthy proposition and I wish them every success but there are too many contingencies for now for it to be, as Howell might say, a slam-dunk.