A Newspaper Startup in 2012 … Is this Madness?

European Daily, preview editionOver the past decade or more, seemingly all the business trends on the newspaper front have been negative. So to read that a new transnational newspaper is being planned for a Fall 2012 launch comes as a pretty big surprise.

Yes, you heard that right:  The European Daily plans to hit the streets in a few months’ time. In the meantime, the budding newspaper already has a website up and running.

The European Daily is the brainchild of three young entrepreneurs from Sweden and Germany. “We are a publication that partly targets a more senior audience who, to a great extent, still prefers print, as well as a traveling audience who wants to read their news on a flight or at their hotel,” says Johan Malmsten, one of the three founders.

Does this sort of thinking sound like a recipe for success in 2012?

At first blush, it seems like a pipe dream. Two huge roadblocks appear to be standing in the way of success. First, the market dynamics have been ugly for traditional newspapers … their traditional business model swept away by the Internet and changing ways that consumers access the news.

Add to this the mounting political and economic crisis in Europe, which could result in the European Union’s breakup, rather than any sort of renewed consolidation.  Is this the right time to be introducing a media property that’s “pan-European” in its character?

Mr. Malmsten discounts these threats. Instead he asserts, “Some people have praised us on our perfect timing, given the vivid current debate about Europe and the fact that a European news source and a common public sphere have never been as much in demand.”

“Europe is a daily reality for millions of Europeans, and that won’t change. We see giving these people a news source and a daily point of reference as our mission,” he adds.

Looking at the newspaper’s launch plans, it’s pretty clear the investors are fully committed to their mission. A staff of 30 is being constructed for the paper — about half of them focused on content.  The editorial team will be based in Amsterdam in Holland.

A “preview” edition of the European Daily was printed last year and ~40,000 copies were distributed in key urban centers like Paris, London, Berlin and Brussels. Reportedly, the reception was highly positive.

But I have doubts whether a completely new newspaper title can be launched successfully – especially one that’s based on a conventional print-centric product with a digital adjunct. It seems like we’ve seen this movie before:  This very formula has been tried and found wanting – even among established newspaper brands.

It will be interesting to look back in about two or three years and see if this endeavor adds up to much – or instead has gone by the wayside.

Anyone care to weigh in with odds on the front end?

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