Bullish Bullivant upbeat on newspaper launch

THE MAN behind the launch of a new weekly newspaper for Birmingham has told TheBusinessDesk.com there has never  been a better time to launch a weekly newspaper – and that ‘the days of daily newspapers are over’.

Chris Bullivant, who confirmed that he will be launching The Birmingham Press next month, said big newspaper groups wanted unrealistic returns from their titles, but that he was prepared to accept much lower margins.

“Times aren’t tough unless you’re still hoping for 20%-plus returns,” he said. “Any newspaper group making more than 10% margins should be ploughing the surplus back into the titles to fight off the competition.”

Mr Bullivant, who has launched dozens of weekly titles in a career spanning more than 40 years in newspapers across the Midlands said his new venture would have property advertising at its heart, and would target relatively upmarket suburbs in the city.

The newspaper would be a ‘quasi-paid-for’ title, he said, with a core sale of around 5,000 being supplemented by 20,000 copies being delivered to suburbs like Harborne and Moseley.

He said he was aiming to fill a gap that had opened up since the Birmingham Post had changed from daily to weekly publishing, and a market that was missed by the Birmingham Mail, which he said concentrated too much on a downmarket audience.

“People say I’m attacking Trinity Mirror,” he said, “but I attack monopolies and I attack markets. I am going in with a relatively low-cost model to service a part of the market that has been let down.

“People ask why I’m doing this and the answer is simple – because it’s my city.”

Mr Bullivant said the days of daily newspapers like the Birmingham Mail ‘were over’ because of changes to reader habits, but that weekly newspapers could still thrive.

Mr Bullivant has made no secret of his desire to re-enter the Birmingham market. In the mid-1980s he launched the Daily News, the UK’s first free daily paper, and two years ago made a bid for Trinity Mirror Midlands, publishers of the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail when the group was put up for sale by its parent company. Trinity Mirror eventually withdrew TMM from sale when an MBO collapsed as the credit crunch bit in 2007.

Mr Bullivant himself faced difficulties in 2008 when his Observer Standard Newspapers company  was put into administration only to be bought by Bullivant Media. Titles include the Solihull Observer, the Redditch Standard and the Bromsgrove Standard.

The Birmingham Press is expected to contain at least 96 pages, and editorial director Tony Lennox told TheBusinessDesk.com: “This is going to be a very substantial, traditional weekly paper with everything you’d expect: a business and features sections, with property at its core.”