Redefining The National

Redefining The National

Today sees the launch of 24, The North’s National. Published by CN Media Group, the title will be sold Monday to Friday at a cover price of 40p. It will be available along the western side of the middle bit of the UK, between Southport in the South and Dumfries in the North. For the first two weeks a guaranteed 150,000 copies will be distributed each day, with hand-to-hand and door-to-door distribution used to bolster the paid-for circulation. Thereafter the paper will be sold in 1,200 stockists across the distribution area.

24 Map

As a peripatetic Southerner who finds himself ensconced in northern climes and raising kids who, so far as I’m concerned, talk a bit funny (“Newcasssle” is probably fair enough if that’s how the locals want to pronounce it, but for God’s sake, in Bath, they say “Barth”. But try explaining this to a three year old and you get nowhere), I’m surprised that such a wide area is being covered by one title. The deliberate blurring of the “national” with the regional kind of makes sense in a Game-of-Thrones, King-in-the-North sort of way, but it also seems to be suggesting that Preston has something in common with Dumfries other than the fact that neither of them is London. This is almost like the stereotypical Southerner’s view of “the North” – a yawning wilderness that begins at Watford and ends at the Faroes, with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh stranded out there in the cold, their city walls constantly watched lest the white walkers attack. These places are all kind of the same, and they’re all “other”, so they probably all think the same things.

But then perhaps the not-Londonness of the thing is exactly its point; perhaps this is where the new publication will find its niche: in an editorial voice that is decidedly not London and is thereby more “national” than some of its truly national competitors because it’s less focussed on the views held or the positions contested by those in the bottom right hand corner of England. The publishers speak proudly of a “Northern slant” (not a type of dance apparently) and “Northern flavour” (make your own joke here if you want one, I have to live here), and as unique selling points go, it’s probably a pretty strong one. Given the Southern and South-Eastern readership weighting of all national press titles, this will also be where 24 adds value to the media schedule; offering a northern up-weight to national press schedules that increases net reach and ensures a more truly national coverage.

It’s not going to be an easy sell though. All the hackneyed “print is dead” rhetoric notwithstanding (it’s not; it’s clearly, really not. Not yet), there’s another fairly strong reason why the true nationals circulate relatively poorly in 24’s footprint: there’s not an awful lot of people there. And those communities that are there tend to be well served already by their own local papers, many of which CN Media publish themselves. This is an area where the local press remains very strong and is particularly well-read, precisely because people in Preston do have concerns and views that differ substantially from those of people in Dumfries, and even more from those of people in “that London”.

As ever, I think I’ll wish the publishers well but reserve judgement until the launch circulation spike has settled and we have some real numbers to look at. This is the point at which the wheels fell off for New Day- when the actual readership take up fell far below what was needed to make it a viable platform for advertisers, all the goodwill in the world wasn’t enough to keep the paper afloat.

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