Saturday, 19 September 2009
I want to be the editor of the Daily Express
I'm deadly serious and I have a plan to make it the best selling paper in the UK and make Richard Desmond even richer. Let me explain, but first let me give you a little history. If you don't want the history of this bonkers idea and just want to know my business plan to reinvigorate it, skip the next paragraph.
Being dyslexic and getting kicked out of English literature for achieving a score of 0% in my mock O level for English (I did the wrong paper & our teacher Miss Walsh hated me so saw it as a great opportunity to get rid of a class troublemaker). I've always enjoyed playing with words, writing song lyrics etc, but I never thought about journalism as a career. I would never have thought of blogging if Emma Hutchins at the Hendon Times hadn't asked me to do a blog. It never occurred to me that anyone actually read it. When I parted company with the Times and started this blog last October, I thought maybe 20-30 people would look at it. I didn't bother to put counter stats on it until February. This was because, being an egomaniac, I couldn't stand the thought that no one might be reading it. Then one day I saw a blog by Iain Dale, who is probably our top blogger, saying he got 350,000 hits a year. I was intrigued. I put the stats counter on and I was truly amazed by the number of hits I get per day. One of my little ideosyncricies is that I love the Daily Express. This is purely because my Dad read it and it reminds me of him. It covers football pretty well and as it's a pretty right wing paper it gives me a broad perspective, balancing my leftie views. Every month I read the circulation figures. Every month it seems to sink a bit further. When my Dad got off the troopship in 1942 and first bought it, it had 4 million readers. In the Guardian media on Monday it had sunk to around 3/4 of a million. If I were Richard Desmond, I'd do something pretty radical. If he gives me £250,000 a year (a large sum, but he's a rich geezer and I'll make him a pot of money), I'll transform it for him. Here's how.
Why is the Express failing? Because it sits in a shrinking marketplace and is worse at it's job than it's main competitor, the Daily Mail. Both are chasing the white, middle England,middle aged, Middle class reader. As such they both are right of centre and England-centric. Wheras the Daily Mail knows what it is and knows what it wants to be, the Daily Express doesn't. I think the Daily Mail lite strategy is a hopeless and doomed plan. I believe that my plan would keep the existing readers and add millions of extremely loyal new ones. It would be a hard road, but it would save Richard Desmond money and reinvigorate the brand. There is one thing which most people have forgotten about the Express. When it was launched it was "The paper for the Empire". Thankfully the Empire is long gone. There is something much better in it's place. The Commonwealth. This is a club of all creeds and colours. The point? Things change. Great Britain is a hugely diverse society. That is the secret of our success.
What would the Express be like if I edited it? Well, you've seen the Barnet Eye which is Uber Local. I campaign for justice, value for money for the taxpayer and honesty and transparancy. I'd get rid of the "broad brush" Labour bashing and start getting specific scoops on specific issues where huge amounts of money are being wasted. I'd like to think that any government department that was not performing would dread waking up to see the next Daily Express headline. I'd champion Mp's who are campaigning for sensible policies and give those who, shall we say, could do better a hard time.
I would transform the staff of the paper. I'd keep those people who are doing a good job, but I'd make the staff younger, more ethnically diverse and more streetwise. I'd give people fresh from college, with radical ideas a break. I'd get "guest editors" at the weekend - I'd ask people such as Lynton Kwesi Johnson, Johnny Rotten, Beth Ditto, Amir Khan and Shappi Khorsandi the seat.
Young readers. I think all of the papers fail much younger readers. Every weekend, I'd have a "Young Express" section and I'd give it over entirely to a different school to edit. It would promote interest in the paper, it would give youngsters a chance to experience journalism and would create massive viral interest. I'd ask schools to submit their proposals and I'd give them 2 pages. I'd pay the schools at the going rate, so they'd get a good kickback. I think that this would also breed great brand loyalty.
I'd also have a Daily "readers picture special". People love taking photographs and I'd co-brand it with retailers, so if you won you'd get a £10 voucher from Boots or another interested company. Everyone loves great pictures. In the digital age it's easy.
Sports coverage. I think the Express generally does this well, but I think it should be expanded by 2 pages, to cover world sports better. There are millions of immigrants and people with associations with other countries. For instance, every Irish pub in London will be packed to the rafters this weekend, to watch the GAA final, but there will be virtually no coverage. This is such a missed opportunity to widen and broaden the readership.
Scoops and stories. The world of news has changed. Many stories are broken by bloggers. I'd have a "local news" section and I'd source this entirely from blogs, obviously paying the blogger for the story. It would promote the blog and widen the appeal of the paper.
Money section. I'd be far more tabloid. We get all of these comparison tables etc, but this means nothing to most people. I'd write the stories along these lines "If you have a mortgage of £100,00 per year and you are being paid more than £XXX.XX a month you should could save this much and spend it down the pub by changing to these products". Apart from sex and football, money is the thing people are most interested in, but the press coverage is completely unreadably dull. I'd make it sexy. Much as I despise the woman, I'd make Jordan my "Money Editor", because she understands cash.
Music. Richard Desmond gets music, but his paper doesn't. I'd have a full 2 page music section every day. Page 1 of this would be edited by an 18-25 year old and would be street. Page 2 would be edited by a 40 something and deal with established acts. If you've ever noticed that when papers give away CD's there's always 6 rubbish tracks on them. I'd put 6 good tracks by unknown bands and promote the fact like mad. Papers do this to reduce the cost as the licensing is far cheaper, but many new bands would give their songs for a token payment just for a massive publicity boost.
Gaming. This is really badly covered. Featuring this properly would bring young readers to the paper.
My team. This will shock you. As my deputy I'd poach Brian Coleman from Barnet Council. I think he'd be a great deputy-editor. I'd make him do restaurant reviews. If someone needed shouting at or being horrible to, he's just the man. It would save the taxpayer a fortune. I'd love to be his boss. He'd give a right wing balance to my leftiness. I'm sure having him promoting the Tories at a National paper would help them no end. I'd make Steve Claridge my football editor. He's played at every level (and every club!) so he'd be great. I've already said I'd have Jordan as my money editor. I'd make Johnny Marr (Smiths/Cribbs) my music editor and I'd make Jonathon Ross my celebrity editor (if I could get him for sensible money). I'd put Linton Kwesi Johnson(see picture) in charge of hiring and firing staff. He's a man I'd trust to get me people who have something to say. I wouldn't change it overnight, I'd gradually do it over six months, a section at a time, so as to not alienate the loyal readers who have stuck by the paper.
I asked a couple of mates for some other suggestions. I don't know if I'd employ any of them, but it made me chuckle :-
Andrew Gilligan - Farming Correspondant (ideally qualified)
Mike Freer - The Horoscope (He's Barnets answer to Mystic Meg with his record on predictions)
Arsene Wenger - Spot the Bad Tackle competition
Boris Johnson - He could redisign thecover (like he let TFL get rid of the River Thames from the tube map)
Anne Widdecombe - Agony Aunt
Ken Livingstone - Pub reviewer (He knows all about Newts)
Richard Barnbrooke - Style and Fashion guru (nuff said)
Amy Winehouse - Healthy living editor
Sir Fred Goodwin - Pension planning
I don't know about you, but I'd love a mid market paper that campaigns for a better country, is honest, decent and in touch. I believe successfull brands are built from the ground up. Sure this is a pipedream, I've no experience, no history and I'm an opinionated arrogant sod with an over inflated ego,my phone won't ring and I won't get a £250,000 job. I can live with that. Having said that, just think about it for a minute though? Does it sound like a paper you'd buy or am I a complete nutter?