Brussels will be ‘sexy tomorrow’!

Albrecht Sonntag |

sexy demain 2At least that’s the forecast of ‘The Supplement’, a popular Sunday afternoon programme on French television (Canal+). Each week, it includes a trendspotting clip named ‘sexy tomorrow’, introducing a someone or something that may become a game changer.

In the edition of 26 April, the game changer was ‘Politico’, the American news site that just opened a Brussels office in Rue de la Loi (see the clip, in French of course, here). With a staff of more than 40, when most major traditional newspapers hardly have more than two permanent correspondents in the European capital, certainly sees a future in Brussels for itself.

Some European media reacted with mixed feelings between scepticism and a bewildered welcome. The gist of reactions could perhaps be summed up as ‘Haven’t they understood that there is no European Public Sphere waiting for them?’ As a matter of fact, there is. One week of testing Politico suggests that it is very clearly aimed at the Brussels microcosm and hardly likely to be read beyond the bubble. Just subscribe to the ‘Brussels playbook’ sent out each morning and you will understand that this is for insiders. Who else would subscribe to a ‘Brussels playbook’ anyway?

For the anecdote, when one long-term Washington reporter of Politico told Barack Obama during a White House press conference that she would be moving to Brussels soon, his reaction was not to quip about how she would shake up the European Union, but a rather mediocre joke about how ‘Belgium must have been waiting for a good dose of Politico-style journalism’ (quoted from memory). Interesting to think that the American president spontaneously thinks ‘Belgium’ first, not ‘EU’. Maybe things have not changed so much after all since the days of George W. Bush? Obama’s recommendation to the lady about to leave for Brussels? ‘Try the waffles. They are delicious.’

Time will tell whether Politico will have a return on its remarkable investment. In order to be profitable, it will have to sell quite a few subscriptions to its professional information newsletters on healthcare, energy/environment and technology. If these pick up among the business and lobbying community, they may be indeed ‘sexy tomorrow’.

I wouldn’t bet on the tongue-in-cheek predictions of Canal+, though. In the edition of 22 March, the man hailed as ‘sexy tomorrow’ was Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, who despite his seemingly limitless self-confidence may be more quickly ‘sexy yesterday’ than he thought. At least that’s what you can read in … Politico!