July 6, 2016
Archant launches The New European, a pop-up newspaper for Remainers after Brexit
by Chad Felix
Archant, a privately owned UK newspaper publisher and media company, has announced the UK’s first ever “pop-up” newspaper. The project was conceived in response to the UK’s recent Brexit vote, which in its immediate wake has inspired widespread discontent and unease on both sides of the ballot.
Enter The New European, a Berliner-format weekly paper, that, in the words of the paper’s launch editor Matt Kelly will, at the very least, “chronicle this insane month.” At best, it will find a passionate following in its intended audience, the 48% of the United Kingdom that voted to remain in the European Union. The first issue is to be published just nine days after initial conception. The paper is planned for a total four issues, with each subsequent installment being funded by sales of the former at £2 apiece. Should this business model work, and should the paper find its audience, Archant will plan additional issues.
Now, we’re all keenly aware of the fact that, fiscally speaking, newspapers are a bad idea. But a newspaper in the wake of Brexit, one that promises to give voice to the nearly half of UK citizens who wished to stay in the EU, and to those who, according to Kelly, feel left behind, or betrayed, by the traditional media? That sounds important and good. But will the New European be important and good?
It’s hard to say. While the paper promises writing on a variety of subjects, from poetry to entrepreneurship, and an all-star cast of contributors (Wolfgang Blau of The Guardian and Peter Bale, CEO of the of the Centre for Public Integrity and breaker of the Panama Papers, to name two), it will not be, according to an Archant’s press release on the subject, political: rather, it will be “non-political.”
Is that a problem? Not necessarily. Is it, given the circumstances, an impossible task? Possibly. Take for example this political statement from Kelly about how the paper will be non-political, per The Independent: “Political voices are not expected in the publication, as the paper will also aim to discuss how ‘the political environment is no longer fit for purpose.’”
The paper just will not publish politicians—because politicians are, one presumes, bad. Elsewhere, Kelly states, “We value expertise and have some of the world’s best brains in their areas writing for us. And it is also a politician-free zone. They are banned.”
Kelly also notes that he’d like the paper to be worn as a kind of “badge of honour” for those a particular political bent.
Indeed, this might be tricky. Even trickier might be determining what an interesting “non-political” newspaper intended for such a specific audience, at such a specific time, might look like. A marketing image created by Archant features a snapshot of an article entitled “Stirring Your Senses with Parisian Style,” which, however provocative (or not) it may be to a post-Brexit audience, is still just lifestyle-rag #content.
But then again, the first issue will feature pieces by former chief of Mothercare Simon Calver and venture capitalist Saul Klein on “how disconnected they realised they had become from ordinary people” after the plebiscite. Are these pieces, too, “non-political?” It’s hard to say.
The fear of banality grows when one observes the way in which Archant representatives are discussing the project. Here’s Will Worley for The Independent:
The company were also keen to exploit the market opportunity presented by the 16 million people who voted to Remain—the paper’s distribution will be targeted at areas which voted to stay within the EU.
“The traditional route to market [for newspapers] involves huge amounts of market research about where your target audience will be strong, but it’s been handed to us on a plate,” Mr Kelly said.
This all fine. People target markets all the time. And people read non-political articles all the time. And that is good. But should articles about Parisian cooking and other such “non-political” (if it is in fact “non-political”) writing be the sole goal of the New European, then the urgency with which Archant has pitched the revolutionary pop-up newspaper may be incommensurate with the realities and needs of a United Kingdom after Brexit.
Ultimately, it’s for the Remainers to decide if this is the case. Should they decide, no, this is not what we need right now, the New European will fold, having served its purpose of documenting one hell of a month—and the papers will become, as Archant has already predicted, collector’s items, if not relics.
Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.