Me. London. Financial Times. Tomorrow


by Sunny
28th November, 2005 at 8:01 pm    

There was a time when I wasn’t too fussed about living in London. Now I absolutely love it. The city has its faults, but when people say its diversity is its strengths – I truly believe that. London is the centre of the world and is becoming the blueprint for what it will be like in the future, i.e. people of every religion and race rubbing up against each other and, slowly but surely, mixing.

But we are let down in one aspect: the media keeps ignoring its non-white citizens (unless there is a crime involved of course). It beggars belief that a newspaper like the Evening Standard, which caters for a population that is now nearly 40% non-white, does not even begin to reflect that. It has no idea what is going on anymore and the slide in its circulation shows.

But we sons and daughters of immigrants are nothing if not entrepreneurial. The market is open for specialist media that caters for niche audiences and tomorrow, in an article for the Financial Times, I explain how London is giving rise to such a dynamic media industry. Profiled are Page2Page, Arabella, Leslie Bunder and more.

The article will be in the Creative Business section, make sure you grab a copy.


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28 Comments below   |  

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  1. rizwand — on 28th November, 2005 at 8:38 pm  

    Sunny hits the pink pages…congrats.

    I’ll keep a look out !

  2. Vladimir — on 28th November, 2005 at 9:05 pm  

    “rubbing up against each other “Do you mean what I may think you mean?

  3. Jai Singh — on 28th November, 2005 at 9:16 pm  

    I think he’s probably referring to his dubious activities on the crowded tube every morning…..

  4. Bikhair — on 28th November, 2005 at 9:34 pm  

    What about Los Angeles?

  5. Mokum — on 28th November, 2005 at 9:43 pm  

    Congratulations Sunny. I hope you got a pretty penny from the pink ‘un :-)

    Has the Standard not changed? I’ve been out of London for a while. Once in a while I’d buy that sad rag for the Tube ride home. If you actually live fun London multiculti madness, that paper is like another planet! Oh well, I guess High Street Ken is another planet…

  6. Fe'reeha — on 28th November, 2005 at 9:52 pm  

    Well, finally I find a reason to read Financial Times.
    Anyway, regarding the Standard, I think things are changing a bit now.
    For instance, back in the 80′s they would not even use a black person’s pic unless he was involved in a crime.
    But yes, definately, more needs to be done.

  7. Mokum — on 28th November, 2005 at 10:05 pm  

    I really like the FT. In particular, I think Rhoula Khalaf is a great Middle East correspondent. She will only really piss off Hanbalis and hard core Republicans. Now that’s progress!

  8. Jez — on 28th November, 2005 at 10:28 pm  

    How exactly is the Evening standard supposed to change ?

  9. El Cid — on 28th November, 2005 at 10:30 pm  

    The second best job in the world in my mind — aside from Mayor of London — would be as a commentator on The Standard.
    There’s certainly huge room for improvement in that paper — scope for making it more in tune with the city it serves. I still have a letter from Max Hastings (former editor) after I had written to him to complain about The Standard’s obsession with Winston Silcott and accusing him of being more in touch with Woking and Dorking than with Wood Green and Deptford.
    He of course disagreed. But I think I got to him in a small way.
    So if your growing exposure acts as a springboard onto the paper for you Sunny and other representatives of ethnic London, then great. It would be a fantastic and a long overdue platform for the progressive politics we represent.
    My mum could do better than David Mellor (God forbid) or even Dianne Abbott for that matter.

    P.S. What about Los Angeles Bikhair?

  10. Siddharth — on 28th November, 2005 at 11:02 pm  

    The Standard – can there be a more irrelevent rag? Every time I buy I regret it because it just irritates so. Its op-eds are writtem by odious creeps like Anne McElvoy who has spent the last 3 years positively braying for war and now is trying her best to slither out of that position. Ugh!

  11. Old Pickler — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:01 am  

    Anne McElvoy is brill. The Evening Standard has also had the sainted Theodore Dalrymple writing in it. The fact that Siddharth doesn’t like it is proof that it is fab.

    Sunny, someone else may have said this, but what is pink and hard in the morning? The FT.

  12. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:36 am  

    You didn’t mention Asiana magazine? You terrible cunt

  13. Sunny — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:41 am  

    Err, yeah thanks for that joke OP.

    Jez – for a start it would report on the people it claims to be serving. All I see is mentions of parties in London and other middle-England tittle tattle. I don’t think their team have wandered around London lately.

    Shihab – I think I did mention it in passing, but I don’t know what the final text will look like tomorrow. The main profiles were mostly about companies just starting up as they fitted into the narrative. Don’t worry there will be more opportunities ;)

  14. shihab — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:15 am  

    Yay. Plus I got to say the C word. Oh and OP, why is your FT hard in the morning?!

  15. Vikrant — on 29th November, 2005 at 7:58 am  

    Well now thats one reason i’ll buy FT… dont care much for newpapers except Sun ;)

  16. Siddharth — on 29th November, 2005 at 8:37 am  

    Dalrymple is a pimple on the face of the old friend that is British journalism.

  17. ContraryMary — on 29th November, 2005 at 1:54 pm  

    here’s some inside info on the Evening Standard’s news agenda from an ex Associated Newspaper employee…

    its news agenda is ‘white fright’. nice eh?

  18. Al-Hack — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:12 pm  

    Doesn’t surprise me ContraryMary.

    Sunny, good on you with the article. Here is the subscription link.
    http://news.ft.com/cms/s/ffd63a66-6010-11da-a3a6-0000779e2340.html

  19. Paul Brown — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:26 pm  

    The Standard has two very good left-wing columinists – Nick cohen and Johan Hari. I have never bought it, but I read Cohen and Hari’s articles on their respective websites. They may have been employed because they are pro-invasion, but nevertheless they write intelligent pieces.

  20. El Cid — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:48 pm  

    It has got better, I concede.
    I’ve begun to like Brian Sewell, I like Cohen, and so forth. I like Wilf Self (I don’t think he is pro-war, although I don’t see that as a line in the sand). Victor Lewis-Smith bores me
    But still, it’s not exactly a mirror image of the world’s greatest city, is it?
    There’s big room for improvement. HUGE room for improvement.
    And since it seems to have an unassailable monopoly and can’t be beaten, the objective ought to be to join it.

  21. ContraryMary — on 29th November, 2005 at 2:51 pm  

    Paul, they do have two very good left wing columnists, (Johan Hari’s columns in The Independent were nothing short of brilliant), but it’s surely to prevent accusations of being too right-wing. which is the general view of the paper.

    from where I’m standing their employment of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is the same.

    ‘how can we be racist when we give a platform to an asian journalist?’

  22. El Cid — on 29th November, 2005 at 4:10 pm  

    I disagree with you ContraryMary insofar as I prefer my paper to have a mix of views rather than to drone on from a particular and predictable angle that the editors think I want to hear (The Guardian used to be like that, but it too has improved and, hence, I have returned to it).
    The appointment of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and for that matter Diane Abbott to make up for a perceived racial deficit, more than anything else, is plain lazy and cliched journalism. The idea of countering institutional bias is well-intentioned but poorly executed.
    These people have the profile but they don’t have the standing, in my view.
    It’s like chatting to the MCB or to the jihaddist chavs that support Bakri and co for a ‘typical’ British moslem view.
    Or let me put it another way: it’s like playing the Gypsy Kings in the background whenever there’s a reportage on Spain (I dunno, a travel item or sumfink).
    Anyway, must get back to work.
    A pint awaits me. So I better hurry up.

  23. ContraryMary — on 29th November, 2005 at 5:48 pm  

    Cid – I don’t prefer to have a myopic, one dimensional perspective from my newspapers.

    but the fact of the matter is most newspapers do trot out one overall line, despite their columnists, and especially the conservative, traditional papers – Telegraph, Mail, Standard,

    the guardian, as with most of its approach since the Berliner relaunch, is the exception rather than the rule. I too have returned to it having become bored with the independent’s deliberately sensationalist front page exclusives.

    and you’re right – Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Diane Abbot, or Anila Baig at the sunf or that matter – is purely tokenistic, short-sighted solution to institutional bias.

    when I look round the newsroom, and arts and features, and sports desk of the paper that I work the lack of non-white employees is a shock. looking up now there are three out of more than 100 employees. excluding the cleaners of course

    and the same applies to any mainstream press event/launch (apart from when Sunny blags his way in, or holds his own) :-)

    sad but true in London in 2005

  24. El Cid — on 29th November, 2005 at 10:05 pm  

    It’s worse than that Mary. Where I work — Britain’s biggest listed media company — there is quite a large selection of non-Britons. There has to be — it’s a global organisation.
    But Britons understandably make up the majority.
    The twist is that most had a wealthy and middle class upbringing or are privately educated.
    “We’re gentlefolk, highly skilled. We’re not builders” I remember our chief NUJ rep saying at a boring Union meeting. Prejudice has many colours.
    The upshot is that Black and Asian Britons are under-represented. But then so are working-class native and immigrant white Britons.

  25. contrarymary — on 30th November, 2005 at 11:32 am  

    Cid – it is interesting the lines are drawn more according to class than race. the upshot of which is the working class, whether native or immigrant, are completely excluded and ultimately shafted.

  26. Don — on 30th November, 2005 at 6:30 pm  

    One of the ways in which the media (conciously or not) discourages working class of any ethnicity is the intern system. Unless you can afford to spend at least a year working effectively for nothing you are at a serious disadvantage.

  27. foreveryonewhoisnotasuscriber — on 1st December, 2005 at 10:52 am  

    For the past six weeks Ishara Bhasi has been commuting to her new workplace in Golders Green, north London, every morning, having resigned after four years as the London correspondent for India Today magazine.

    Her previous job allowed her to escape the transport grind by working from home, but as the assistant editor of Page 2 Page, a new quality freesheet aimed at British Asians, she’s glad she made the move.

    “I have learnt so much about the market in the past few weeks. It’s quite exciting,” she says with a glint in her eye. “London’s such a beautiful, cosmopolitan city and there is always something happening here. I couldn’t go back to India.”

    In another part of the city, Elvira Doghem-Rashid and Nadine Hallak have been tirelessly working on the launch issue of Arabella, a lifestyle magazine that hits the news-stands next month. Aiming to win over young and affluent British Arabs, the two are confident that a big market is ripe for exploiting.

    “We want to bring that sense of romanticism about Arab culture back to Britain,” says Ms Hallak, who takes care of marketing. “The magazine is for the hybrids, like me and Elvira, who are partly Middle-Eastern and partly British. There is a lot of duality. A lot of fusion.”

    Ms Doghem-Rashid, the editor and publisher, says the city is home to a large number of affluent Arabs and its “enviable reputation around the world as a leading financial and cultural hub” made it the obvious choice to start a publication.

    These are just two of the latest additions to an ethnic media industry that is as vibrant and diverse as London’s ethnic make-up. If successful, Page 2 Page could take its place alongside long- established ethnic newspaper titles such as the Jewish Chronicle, New Nation, Eastern Eye and The Voice.

    Beyond the newspaper racks, Arabella could soon find itself as entrenched in London’s magazine market as the likes of Pride and Asiana.

    The industry also includes broadcasters such as Sunrise Radio and Choice FM – which, after being established as a community station in Brixton 15 years ago, was last year bought by Capital Radio.

    What binds the capital’s ethnic media is the desire to tap into a growing youth demographic in a city that, because of its sheer size, has become a magnet for media entrepreneurs of all ethnicities.

    But while London is clearly a hotbed of established and start-up media companies that want to tap into its diverse audiences, it is less clear how they sustain themselves financially and what makes them successful or prone to failure.

    Only last month, delegates at a conference in Paris about the European ethnic media landscape (which was organised by the Panos Institute) discussed how mainland continental countries tended to subsidise many such outlets, in contrast with the more laissez- faire approach in the UK and the US.

    For British Asians, the size of the market (around 2.1m people) and its relative affluence is a big pull and underlines Ms Bhasi’s confidence that Page 2 Page can prosper.

    “All these people want to advertise in ethnic media but they don’t know how to,” she says, recalling a recent story she heard of the luxury brand Cartier struggling to find an Asian publication it could identify with. She estimates that the total advertising pie is worth about Pounds 2m a year.

    But over the medium term, her paper will have to overcome one major hurdle – tapping into the public sector ads that bolster its main competition: Eastern Eye. Given Eastern Eye’s strong brand and longevity (11 years), this is no easy task.

    Ms Bhasi says new entrants to the market have to “think beyond Green street” for income, implying they cannot just rely on Asian advertisers and must instead find a way of attracting mainstream advertisers as well.

    East London’s Club Asia radio station has tried to do just that. Just over two years old, the station last month won this year’s HSBC Start-Up Stars award and a Pounds 20,000 top prize.

    Co-founder and director John Ogden says the award was a recognition that ethnic media “have a viable and crucial role to play in advertising, not just to those niche audience but to the mainstream as well”.

    The station claims that its launch helped stimulate the advertising market and around 70 per cent of its clients are new to radio. “We had to convince them of our level of customer care, creativity and that radio works, particularly with those 25-35s,” he says. “We launched the biggest survey on Asian tastes ever undertaken. This told us the music to play, the language to use (English), where the audience lived, its lifestyle habits, the style of the shows and which other stations our audience would come from.

    “London is the biggest Asian marketplace outside the sub- continent. With one in every eight Londoners of Asian origin we knew we could make the numbers work.”

    Back at Arabella, Elvira Doghem-Rashid has a similar feat to pull off – convincing advertisers that Britain’s half-a-million strong Middle Eastern community is large and affluent enough to target. She says that in her view the market is “surprisingly under-developed”, with most of the existing publications aimed at the older demographic and in Arabic.

    The efforts to attract mainstream advertisers are not just of commercial importance to these businesses, they also form part of a broader debate in the advertising industry about whether big brands (such as mobile phone operators, for example) are better off targeting the so-called “brown pound” through specialist ethnic media or through mainstream media channels.

    The proliferation of ethnic media outlets suggests the latter by itself is not seen as a sufficient way of reaching out to these markets.

    “All the clients and advertisers are looking to do is grow market share. So why would they not use the industry?” says Sanjay Shabi, who heads up CultureCom, a specialist division of the agency Media- Com.

    Mr Shabi says the problem is that there is not enough detailed information about the precise audience reach enjoyed by ethnic media companies to make a compelling case for agencies.

    “Generally, the accountability (in terms of measuring audiences or circulations) is appalling. Some specialist media companies have been going for 30-40 years, so what excuse do they have not to (have their reach) audited?

    “They need to make that case. They have to view it as an investment and think about research. Or sometimes there is research but people don’t make sufficient use of it.”

    Mr Shabi adds that ethnic media companies should make the most of being in London by meeting with media buying agencies directly.

    “More and more agencies are getting involved and ethnic media companies need to have a programme in place so they can talk to the agencies extensively. They need to do road-shows, formulate business plans, and lay out their vision for the future. Then the money will come in.”

  28. Sunny — on 1st December, 2005 at 1:46 pm  

    Ahh, thanks! Even I don’t have the final copy for the article.

    There was also a box which had some more copy which focused on the internet and Leslie Bunder’s Jewish websites.

    Shihab – They did ask me for the names of most prominent titles across all markets, which I gave them (incl. Asiana) but they didn’t put that in :(

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