By: Mark Fitzgerald
Upscale British black weekly with a focus on international
news, expands to Europe; eyes distribution in the U.S.
A BRITISH BROADSHEET that has found fast success targeting upscale blacks is moving on to continental Europe ? and is gazing wistfully at the United States.
Officials of the Weekly Journal were at the recent Unity ’94 conference of minority journalists in Atlanta to test the U.S. waters.
Their first foray left them impressed with the growing size and clout of minority journalists ? but with some doubts about how the Journal’s mix of Caribbean, African and international news would sell with American-born blacks.
“American blacks, and it doesn’t seem to matter the income or region, seem rather insular,” one editor said privately.
However, the Journal clearly feels it might be worth the risk.
Ad director Tetteh Kofi noted that the paper already includes American stories in its editorial mix.
“We like to run an American story on the front page,” Kofi said.
A recent issue, for example, included a profile of Arsenio Hall, an interview with U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, and a gossip column with items about former basketball star Magic Johnson and record producer Berry Gordy.
The Journal right now is expanding internationally with a version that was to begin circulating in France and Germany at the beginning of the fall season.
Expansion into Holland ? Amsterdam has a substantial African and Carribean population ? is also likely, Kofi said.
The paper has established bureaus in South Africa and Australia.
“We’re very internationally oriented,” Kofi said.
At home, the Journal, whose slogan is “News from a black perspective,” is the only British “quality” paper targeting blacks.
It is a demographically desirable group: Readers are generally between 25 and 45, university graduates and professionals at the manager level.
“We target opinion leaders within the public and private sectors,” Kofi said.
The Journal is one of two black-oriented newspapers published by the London-based Voice Communications Group.
Voice Communications is best known for its downmarket tabloid the Voice. Over the years, however, the Voice’s readership has grown older and the publishing group has created the younger demographic-skewing Journal and Pride, a slick magazine it advertises as “already . . . Britain’s biggest selling magazine for women of colour.”
The Journal has won fast applause for its coverage and design.
Britain’s major civil rights group, the Commission for Racial Equality, named the Journal Newspaper of the Year for 1994.
With a 60-40 editorial/advertising split, the paper runs a respectable classified ad section, which is heavy on high-paying employment recruitment ads.
However, the Journal needs to sell more papers to its readers, Kofi says. Circulation is 27,500, he notes, but readership ? “Sadly,” Kofi said ? is more than 105,000.
Circulation is largely through single-copy sales. At 55-pence, or about 85?, the Journal is fairly cheap for a weekly in England.
“One of the difficulties [to increasing circulation] has been the perception of value,” Kofi said.
Right now, the paper runs just 18 pages.
One plan is to add a 32-page arts and entertainment review section, perhaps as early as this fall.
Nevertheless, the paper has not been affected by the now-abating price war that radically drove down the cover prices of Britain’s daily “quality” broadsheets.
“What protects us,” Kofi said, “is that our market is so niched that, barring an act of God or another Great Flood, we will not be touched. [Other broadsheets] will never have the editorial we have.”
?( Weekly Journal) [Photo]