THE BLOG
29/02/2016 10:12 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Will Britain's New National Newspaper Survive?

According to Fox, it will be targeting "women and men". Teased by John Humphrys about this, he said his words were deliberately chosen to indicate an emphasis on targeting female readers. There's another paper already doing that. It's called the Daily Mail. It doesn't believe in a good news agenda. It loves being bitchy. It's also doing rather well. Let battle commence.

Anyone who loves newspapers will be hoping that The New Day, the latest addition to our news stands, proves a roaring success.

Launched by publishers, Trinity Mirror, Britain's first new stand-alone newspaper for 30 years is hitting the streets just weeks before The Independent and Independent on Sunday breathe their last, retreating from print to disappear into online obscurity.

I must declare an interest. As a senior executive on The Daily Mail and The Sunday Telegraph for the best part of 25 years, newspapers are in my blood. I read them every day. I take them seriously. I care about them.

Sadly, I'm one of a dying breed - so does The New Day have a realistic chance of succeeding in an era of plunging circulation and cut-price advertising, which has shredded the business model of every newspaper?

You have to admire Trinity Mirror's chutzpah. The paper will have a presence on social media, but isn't bothering with a stand-alone website. Very retro.

It will be a streamlined, stripped-down operation with a team of around 25 journalists headed by editor Alison Phillips, who already has a day job as weekend editor of The Mirror. Costs will be kept to a minimum and Trinity Mirror's publishing clout will doubtless allow advertising to be cross-sold across its titles.

Yet hearing Phillips and Trinity Mirror chief executive Simon Fox outline their vision for the new paper made me worried. It won't be a "red-top", instead targeting readers in the (very large) gap between The Sun and The Guardian. It won't have a political standpoint, a leader column or any in-built bias. It will present the news in digestible bite-size chunks. It will only be published on weekdays and have no weekend edition.

Sound familiar? That's because exactly such a paper already exists. It's called Metro. When I was editor 15 years ago, it was distributed to almost one million readers. Today, it's picked up by 1.35 million in cities across the United Kingdom and is the third most-read paper behind only The Sun and the Daily Mail.

The big difference between Metro and New Day is one's free and the other will be sold for 50p. On my commute into London, I am frequently the only person in my carriage reading a paid-for newspaper. When Metro was launched in 1999, critics claimed it would cannibalise the market. We denied it at the time, but it's a prophecy that has come true. Similarly, The Evening Standard has only revived its fortunes since becoming a give-away.

Once readers are used to getting their daily paper for nothing, it's hard to make the case for a 50p newspaper with no intention of offering original or pioneering content.

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The success of The Independent's sister paper, i, was based on its cut-price model: the same quality content at a fraction of the price. That can't be said of New Day; 50p is not an especially competitive price for a mid-market title aimed at the 35-55 audience.

Every newspaper needs a USP and New Day's will be its cheery, optimistic outlook. It will not "terrify" its readers with sensationalist stories, its editor promises. Instead, it will make them feel good about the news.

Former BBC News reader Martyn Lewis once pushed this "good news" agenda and was widely derided for it. Actually, I applaud it. My younger self believed that murders, sex crimes and gang attacks were what readers wanted. Now, I'm a member of New Day's target audience and a father of two, grubby court cases are the last thing I want to read at the kitchen table.

So I wish New Day good fortune - and good look sticking to its mantra on the day of a terrorist attack or refugee catastrophe.

According to Fox, it will be targeting "women and men". Teased by John Humphrys about this, he said his words were deliberately chosen to indicate an emphasis on targeting female readers.

There's another paper already doing that. It's called the Daily Mail. It doesn't believe in a good news agenda. It loves being bitchy. It's also doing rather well. Let battle commence.