Archive for the ‘Daily Mirror’ tag

Does it pay to challenge prevailing wisdom? Ask the Mirror

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Rupert Murdoch is stepping off a tall building and is asking the rest of us to join him. So said Matt Kelly, Associate Editor of the Daily Mirror, about Murdoch’s commitment to construct paywalls across his sites. Kelly was talking at a panel he and I were on at this week’s 2015 Newsroom conference in Prague. Yet going by what Kelly subsequently said, the Mirror appears to be taking a similar – if perhaps slightly less suicidal – step into the unknown.

Newspapers should stop judging their online success by their number of unique users and by their page rank for stories on Google, Kelly argued. Focusing on these gives a false impression of the importance of their content to the audience. Even though the unique user figures of many papers now resemble financial bailout numbers – slightly under 30 million uniques at the Mail and the Guardian, for example – these figures have not translated into income.

This is because, if you break them down, you see that the vast majority are promiscuous and occasional users. Most people come to the site maybe once or twice a month, stay to look at a couple of stories and then go. The site is only a destination for about a third of its users. Another third come via Google and the final third from referrals.

With this amount of passing traffic it’s no great surprise that it’s difficult to monetize. Advertisers are skeptical enough about whether people take any notice of ads on sites – and if those ads are targeted at a mass, undifferentiated audience then it’s no wonder it’s considered to be of low value.

This is why the Mirror, following part of Jeff Jarvis’ now famous dictum – ‘do what you do best’ – has launched two entirely new sites based on some of the most popular and sticky elements of its content. 3AM.co.uk is a celebrity gossip and fashion website based on the highly successful double page spread in the print paper (though sharing almost no content). MirrorFootball is, as it sounds, a football site based around the Mirror’s extensive archive of stories and pictures (20 million photographs in its archive – 300,000 of which have so far been digitized).

Each of these sites deliberately ignores current measures of success. They are not ‘search engine optimized’ (SEO). They do not, in other words, construct the headlines and first paragraphs such that people searching under specific keywords will find them first. In the case of 3AM the sections are about intriguing readers rather than search engine robots (the tabs are, in order: Ooh…, Gasp!, Grrr!, Phwoar!, TeeHee!).

Kelly argues that these sites will develop a real relationship with their audience. They will not need great SEO because they will be destinations. Already, he says, 90% of the people coming to 3AM come to the site directly, rather than through search or referrals. And, once there, people read an average of seven stories, rather than the traditional one or two. Kelly was reluctant to give out any specific audience figures yet.

This deeper relationship – with a much more focused audience – will, the Mirror believes, create much richer revenue opportunities. It will be easier to sell premium advertising because the Mirror will know more about the audience and their behavior. They will be able to sell unique merchandise – particularly in the case of Mirror Football thanks to the archive. And they can sell tickets to exclusive events.

But will this strategy – to build a destination more analagous to a television channel than a traditional news website – work? I’d say 3AM has a decent chance of success but am much less sure about Mirror Football.

3AM is about access – access to celebrities, to gossip, to parties and to nightclubs. Going to the site is like being part of a club. And interest in one part of the club (Peaches Geldof, say) is not mutually exclusive with interest in another (Mischa Barton). Exclusivity is consistent with this and therefore in its favour. One can see how, if the Mirror’s smart, it can extend the brand into events, fashion and spin-offs.

It will be harder to monetise Mirror Football. Though the Mirror has a tremendous football archive it does not have exclusive access to football clubs, or to footage. For this reason alone it is hard to see why it would be a primary destination above the site of the football club itself. Most football fans will have greater affinity to their club than to news organisations that cover their club.

Then there is the conscious decision not to adopt the second half of Jeff Jarvis’ dictum – ‘and link to the rest’. The Mirror will not, Kelly said, make it a policy to link to lots of other sites, but try to keep them on its own as long as possible. Again, this flies against some conventional wisdom about the link economy.

But both strategies – 3AM and Mirror Football – are consistent with the move towards specialization. For many commercial news organizations this is a natural step. Find what you’re good at, where you have a competitive advantage and where you see a focused audience, and focus on that. It’s a strategy very familiar to the consumer magazine industry.

Of course this further accentuates the bigger question – what happens to the general news? – but that’s for a separate discussion.

Certainly, the Mirror has made a brave decision that ought to be watched carefully by its competitors.

See also Greenslade blog, ‘Mirror’s website supremo: forget unique users and build a loyal audience instead

Written by Martin Moore

October 2nd, 2009 at 8:09 am

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What would you rather own – a newspaper or a football team?

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80 odd years ago, if you wanted power and influence, you could do worse than buying a newspaper or two. Lord Beaverbrook did it. Lord Rothermere and Lord Northcliffe did it.

Almost all of them were in it for the power as much – if not more – than the money. News gave them access to politicians. News made them a ‘representative’ voice of the people. At one stage, news and politics even merged – with Beaverbrook’s Empire Free Trade Crusade in 1931 which campaigned for the British Empire to become a free trade bloc (from which came the famous Stanley Baldwin quote about the power of the press as “Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”).

Now, if you’ve got money to burn, you buy a football team (or a Formula 1 team). First Roman Abramovich with Chelsea, then Thaksin Shinawatra with Manchester City, and now Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim – again with Manchester City. Each of them less interested in making money than in buying prestige and status on the world stage (see Martin Samuel today on ‘Profits of Doom‘).

OK, it’s not the same sort of influence, but it does say something about the nature of 21st century power. How global it is. How commercial it is. And how important fame is – even to people with lots and lots of money.

Who wants to end up like Conrad Black? Would you really want to own Trinity Mirror or Johnston Press?

And how can anyone who watched last month’s Beijing Olympics question the relationship between sport and power?

Still, imagine if Dr Sulaiman Al-Fahim bought The Daily Mirror – imagine the signings he could make…

Written by Martin Moore

September 3rd, 2008 at 11:11 am

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An undercover documentary at a British newspaper?

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Why hasn’t anyone tried the Daily Mirror tactics on the Daily Mirror?

Roy Greenslade wrote yesterday about the Mirror’s latest stunt – to get a ‘sleeper’ journalist into Conservative HQ. Emily Miller, the journalist in question, applied for a £40,000 a year post helping Caroline Spelman, from which position she could have fed confidential Tory documents to her newspaper in the months leading up to the next election. But Miller was rumbled by the Tories because of her references (or lack of them).

And this Wednesday night Current TV is screening Nick Angel’s film, ‘The Daily Mail Diet’. Taking a lead from Morgan Spurlock’s ‘Supersize Me’, Angel has restricted his news diet to the Daily Mail and filmed the effect it has on his (previously liberal) attitudes.

But what if you mixed Miller with Angel? What if someone managed get a job as a reporter on a British newspaper and spent a month secretly filming behind the scenes?

Imagine the fantastic footage you might capture – the feeding frenzy after a news story breaks; editors laying into journalists for missing out on an exclusive (Rebecca Wade after the Mirror beats the Sun to Pete Doherty again?); sub-editors mulling over how to ‘sex up’ a headline about prostate cancer (e.g. stories in Express & Mail earlier this month); or Express editors working out how on earth they can lead with yet another story about Diana.

The more I think about it, the more surprised I am someone hasn’t already tried it. Or perhaps they have and they got rumbled too…

Written by Martin Moore

August 20th, 2007 at 11:13 am

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