Will we ever see this new 'World'?

Raymond Snoddy asks Stephen Glover about the state of play with his plan to launch a new quality daily
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The Independent Online

Stephen Glover, a co-founder of The Independent, insists that he could still launch a new top-of-the-market quality daily newspaper next year, despite obvious difficulties in raising money for the ambitious project.

Stephen Glover, a co-founder of The Independent, insists that he could still launch a new top-of-the-market quality daily newspaper next year, despite obvious difficulties in raising money for the ambitious project.

News of the project, which could be called The World, after the French quality daily Le Monde, was leaked at the end of February. Since then, virtually nothing has been heard of the attempt to raise £15m to launch the compact paper, which would set out to take sales from existing quality dailies.

Despite the silence, Glover, a columnist for the Daily Mail, who promised that the paper would be a celebrity-free zone, insists that the project is "extant".

Glover says that the team behind it, which includes Vicky Unwin, the former managing director of PR Newswire, as prospective managing director, will say nothing, either officially or unofficially, "until or unless we raise the money".

But Glover, a former editor of The Independent on Sunday, says: "The project is extant, and is as extant as it has ever been, that's all I can say really." Asked whether it was true that the group had failed to raise the necessary funds, Glover replies: "It's a slightly pejorative way of putting it to say that we have failed to raise the money so far. It makes it sound as if we have been struggling against enormous odds. We are following a particular strategy and I am optimistic that it will succeed."

The journalist was a leader writer on The Daily Telegraph before joining Andreas Whittam Smith in launching The Independent in 1986. He believes that there has been a serious dumbing-down in the national newspaper market. He believes that The World, or whatever final title is chosen, could attract significant numbers of disaffected readers, put off by triviality. The aim is to produce a high-quality, low-cost paper that could survive on initial sales as low as 100,000.

Could the paper be launched next year? "Conceivably, yes," says Glover, the son of an Anglican cleric. "Everything that was said about it when it leaked at the end of February, all the factual stuff remains true. Absolutely. Actually, I am as optimistic as I have ever been," he says, in a markedly ambiguous comment.

In particular, Glover, who also writes for The Spectator magazine, still believes in the high-end nature of the project. Because of the I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! culture, Glover says that he feels like a stranger in his own country. Ironically, one of the stars of the latest series, Janet Street-Porter, is also a former editor of The Independent on Sunday.

When the initial story first came out, Andrew Neil, publisher of The Business and The Scotsman, and now chief executive of The Spectator, said that he hoped that the paper would succeed, but was very sceptical. "To launch a new quality newspaper in today's crowded and declining market is either brave or foolhardy. To finance such a project requires even more courage and is probably foolish," the former editor of The Sunday Times argued.

Despite a certain dogged optimism, the silence over any potential investors nearly a year after the project first became public does not look good. It is just about possible - but unlikely - that the Daily Mail and General Trust, publishers of the Daily Mail, might consider getting involved, following its failure to buy The Daily Telegraph. But the reality is that conditions in the national newspaper market have worsened significantly over the past year. Advertising revenues have not bounced back from recession as robustly as had been hoped, and recent circulation figures show that most papers are down year-on-year.

The only two exceptions are The Times, which is up by 0.6 per cent, and The Independent, up by 9.1 per cent. One of the main factors influencing the positive sales of both papers is the fact that both are now wholly compact. But that in turn removes what might once have been a unique selling point for Glover's paper - a Le Monde-style format.

Certainly, very few people in the national newspaper industry, apart from Stephen Glover, of course, are holding their breath for the arrival of a new competitor.