It has the romanticism of the Gallic village of Asterix: defending the European dream in the post-Brexit UK today, and betting above all on the paper format, with a weekly magazine. And yet The New European (TNE) , which was born as a desperate and provisional response to the disappointment of that 2016 referendum, has survived these years. And it is willing to continue fighting.
Matt Kelly, the head of content for regional media group Archant , conceived the idea for the weekly the same night that Brexit became a reality. He persuaded the business owners to immediately release a pop-up post(instant launch). Kelly had the connections, knew all the journalists and academics needed to keep the debate on Europe alive.
About its politics, its culture, its geographical and historical ties. It had to be a paper magazine. It had to have an affordable price, but that sent a signal of quality (two pounds, little more than two euros). And it had to reach the largest number of stalls across the country.
No market research, no need to hire advertising agencies to debate the name or design of the publication for months. In nine days it reached TNE kiosks. It has been there for almost five years, with a circulation of 20,000 copies, and a web portal with more than a million page views per month.
British politicians, both Conservative and Labor, believe that the Brexit debate is now behind us. That the United Kingdom has turned the page. Kelly, however, thinks there is still a lot to discuss about Europe.
It has bought the headline from Archant – for an undisclosed price – and has enlisted the support of up to 14 investors, some as relevant as the former director of The Financial Times , Lionel Barber , the former CEO of the BBC, Mark Thompson,or the Irish media entrepreneur, Gavin O’Reilly. More than one million euros, according to sources familiar with the operation.
“Enough capital to take over the magazine and its brand, and start investing in content and market launch,” Kelly assures EL PAÍS. “The Brexit battle is over. The time has come to look to the future. And TNE wants to make its contribution to that debate about the future of the UK, its relationship with Europe and about Europe itself. There are loads of Brits interested in it, do not want to be part of a Little England (little England) , ” says Barber.
“Let’s not forget that at least 50% of British voters are very supportive of the idea of the EU. That has not changed. The role of the United Kingdom within the Community institutions has always been the subject of intense debate, but nobody doubts that it is an important part of Europe.
Only a very small minority dares to say that we would be better off if we turned our backs on the EU and gave priority to other alliances, with the United States or with China, for example, “says Kelly.
TNE is now more expensive than in the beginning. Three pounds, little more than three euros. The production costs of each weekly print run come to about 30,000 euros. The new capital, promises the management, will allow to improve the contents and reach even beyond the United Kingdom.
Despite the fact that, as Kelly admits, the magazine is unapologetically European but British at heart. “Many passionately defend the idea of Europe, but they also understand that the EU must change in some aspects. Events such as what happened with the vaccine war have not helped.
Many pro-Europeans and anti-Europeans have agreed to criticize the European Commission for not understanding how necessary it is to build bridges ”.
And why this bet on the print run, while other media begin to abandon that format? “In the first place, because it still represents 95% of our income. And because, just as it happened to many Spaniards who at the end of the 70s felt part of something new and exciting when they walked with a copy of EL PAÍS under their arms, we also want to offer that physical identity of belonging to our readers ” Kelly responds.
The first issue of TNE, back in July 2016, displayed that irreverence – most of the time elegant – that many British weeklies like to use. It showed, occupying almost two-thirds of the cover, a cartoon of the prestigious couple of graphic comedians, Kerber and Black. A British couple lounging on the sofa looked at their dog.
The husband wondered: “Will the dogs think?” In the cloud that came from the hound, it could be read: “These idiots have voted to leave the EU, and they have created a future of uncertainty and instability that will have a devastating effect for the next generations, and that will lead this great nation to a situation of isolation ”.
TNE aspires to continue talking about Europe, with the idea that the debate can be reinvented, but not abandoned. Even for dogs.