Bullivant: Birmingham Press will work or it's my Waterloo

Birmingham's latest newspaper war kicked off in earnest today as local newspaper entrepreneur Chris Bullivant launched his Birmingham Press title.

The first issue of the new paper leads with a scoop about plans to redevelop a serious crimes squad in the West Midlands after its predecessor was disbanded in the late 1980s.

The launch follows Trinity Mirror rolling out the Birmingham Post Lite yesterday, distributing the paper for free to around 18,000 homes in the upmarket areas of Moseley, Edgbaston and Harborne in the south of the city.

Bullivant's launch will also target those areas of Birmingham as both papers battle it out for the potentially lucrative property advertising market.

The Lite was distributed with the 72-page Post Property magazine while the Press is aiming to be sold in estate agents and newsagents in its target areas.

Bullivant, who is running the Press through a company called CJB Media, told Press Gazette that he had adopted a completely new approach with a mixed paid-for and free distribution of around 25,000.

He said: "I'm calling it a quasi-paid for. I hope that it will become a full paid-for title with around 50,000 copies sold each week but I'm certainly not holding my breath.

"So I'm putting out 20,000 copies free of charge because, although I'm hoping for sales, for the advertisers I can't take that risk."

Free delivery of the paper would be rotated between Sutton Coldfield, Solihull and areas of central Birmingham, Bullivant said.

The weekly will produce around 120 pages each week with between 40/50 per cent editorial content, he added, with the paid-for element sold at 50p with that cover price set to rise to £1 after an initial period.

The Press, which is aiming for an affluent readership, is edited by former Trinity Mirror weeklies editor Tony Lennox. It does not have a newsroom, instead relying on a string of freelance contributors submitting work from home.

 

Bullivant told BBC Radio 4 Today programme yesterday that he planned to spend £4,000 each week on editorial with the paper focusing on general news rather than adopting the business-mixed-with-local-news slant of the Birmingham Post Lite.

"Trinity Mirror will throw everything at me because if I'm right I will raise a new wave of newspaper entrepreneurship across the country," Bullivant said.

"If it works we aim to be number two in the market place, but a plausible number two not an also-ran."

In a front page editorial in yesterday's launch edition of the Lite, Birmingham Post editor Alun Thorne told readers the paper had been created "just for people like you – the residents of Harborne, Moseley and Edgbaston. Serving your local community and the wider city".

Launch of the Birmingham Press was test that needed to be taken, Bullivant said, as daily local papers were "on their knees".

He sees the future of local papers coming through a mix of daily digital publication (Birmingham Press is planning the launch of a website) with the addition of a low-cost weekly print product.

He also hinted at possible future launches with as similar business plan, saying that if his low cost approach appealed to high-end readers then a similar title aimed at traditionally tabloid readers – the C1 and C2 ad market – could be on the cards: "That would be a much bigger market".

Bullivant said the paper aimed to "attack" ad revenue in Birmingham with quality editorial as the focus rather than ad sales and his initial aim was simply to get readers to enjoy the paper.

"All that I'm looking for in week one is that the people of Birmingham and the pundits say that it's a great issue and that it's a great product," he said.

And after that?

"I'll either make it work or it's my waterloo again."

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