The New European newspaper has reported its first profitable month fuelled in part by a marketing partnership with the Rest is Politics podcast.
The pro-Europe, weekly publication ended November with more than 28,000 subscribers, a 62% year-on-year increase.
Some 17,400 of the subscriptions are digital and 10,800 subscribe in print, New European editor-in-chief Matt Kelly told Press Gazette.
Combined with average weekly newsstand sales of 5,000, Kelly said the publisher now had a “headline paying readership” of 33,000 a week.
What’s driven growth at The New European?
The New European raised £1m in 2022 after inviting readers to invest at a price of £3 a share. By the end of the fundraising drive some 2,000 of the publication’s readers owned 16.7% of the business.
At the time, Kelly told Press Gazette his immediate plan was to use some of the money to boost awareness of The New European, which he called “the media’s best-kept secret”.
Speaking on Wednesday he said that plan played out as “really focused marketing” – in particular via a dozen sponsorships of episodes of the Goalhanger podcast The Rest Is Politics, which is co-hosted by former Conservative MP Rory Stewart and former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell.
“We’ve had a great partnership with The Rest Is Politics podcast,” Kelly said. “As they’ve grown, we’ve grown, and there’s obviously a great kind of symbiosis there because Alastair Campbell is our editor-at-large.”
The partnership has also seen The New European offer Stewart’s book, Politics On The Edge, and Campbell’s 2023 diaries as subscription perks. (Liberal LBC host James O’Brien’s book How They Broke Britain has also been offered to encourage people in.)
Kelly emphasised that none of these promotions were loss leaders as they were only offered alongside annual subscriptions: “All of our activity is profitable.”
The “recipe”, he said, was “getting exactly the right audience and exactly the right people promoting us, to trigger people to say: ‘Oh, I’ve been thinking about [subscribing] for a while, but I really do fancy that book, so I might as well subscribe’”.
Kelly said The New European does not give out free trials, but “that’s not to say that we wouldn’t do that in the future.
“But right now, we’ve just seen a lot of growth from people who are willing and want to pay. We’re not having to push people too hard – they want to pay.”
He attributed that to “a very clear mission statement, which is to combat right-wing nationalism wherever we see it”.
The New European was launched in 2016 by Archant as a pop-up newspaper following the Brexit referendum. After proving enduringly popular it was kept running as a permanent title, and was bought by founder Kelly in 2021 with the help of investors.
Newsstand sales are down 5% year-on-year, Kelly said, which he attributed in part to subscriber growth.
Weekly newsstand readership wobbled between 4,000 and 6,000, Kelly said. Asked which issues tended to do better, he said: “Fairly direct attacks on people like Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak do the trick” – although he added “we don’t want to become monotone… you can’t be visibly furious each week”.
Twitter ‘drives the square root of bugger all’ subscriptions
As a result of the growth, Kelly said, The New European is “going into 2024 in rude health”.
“We had our first truly profitable month in October. We are nip and tuck profitable going forward, and we will be materially profitable in 2024.”
He said the company may still choose to invest more in marketing: “The ambition would be, within a couple of years, to be around the 50,000 mark of proper, paying subscribers.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I think the way we’ve grown the business has been really sensible and pragmatic. We’re not burdened with grand visions of our futures. But if we can get to the 40,000, 50,000 mark then it’s a terrifically profitable business.”
He added: “Our business is a proper business – the goal has always been to make it profitable”.
Although the title has historically not carried advertising, Kelly said its audience growth meant “there’s a definite opportunity for some really focused advertising in The New European” in 2024.
“It’s never, ever going to be more than, I would say, 10% of our annual returns. Still, that would be £200,000 or £300,000, which would be potentially helpful as we grow.”
Asked whether The New European’s distribution had been affected by Elon Musk’s changes at X/Twitter, Kelly said the platform “drives us the square root of bugger all in terms of subscriptions”.
It does drive traffic to the website, he said, but “there’s certainly no existential threat to our business if Twitter fell off a cliff”.
In the immediate term Kelly said he was pleased to outline a good news media story amid a difficult year for the news industry.
He said: “I thought I’d get to the end of the year and be absolutely delighted and crack open a bottle of champagne. Which I will do!
“But I am now in the situation of – ‘Oh my god, how do we repeat this next year?’”
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