MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Mirror's marketing sits badly with new editorial direction

Death on the railways, murder by arson and even David Beckham's goalposts got short shrift from the tabloids this week as they competed to find a typeface even David Blunket could read to announce their new cover prices.

The Sun and the Daily Mirror managed a good five inches to announce their new 20p price, while the Daily Express was a rather more piddly two inches.

The winner, as is usual with these things, was the Daily Star, which managed a fulsome seven inches to announce that, at 10p, it's now half the price of "expensive imitations".

Such lavish point sizes and bargain-basement cover prices are hardly the stuff you'd expect in the current climate of thin ad revenues and savage internal cost-cutting. But then desperate times call for old newspaper marketing strategies to be given another outing, even though they ended up costing millions and adding sales somewhere shy of that mark first time round.

The Express has been price-promoting for a while, but the Mirror really lit the torch-paper last week by announcing its 20p price. And for the Mirror, at least, the pricing promotion had the flavour of a tactic, following as it does the recent relaunch and proclaimed zeal for real news rather than celebrity toss (the death of five Asian sisters in a fire in Huddersfield accounted for the bottom third of the front page on Monday, compared with The Sun's "Becks moves the goalposts").

The content has patently improved and the editor, Piers Morgan, seems to have discovered a new enthusiasm for his product. So far, though, there's no sign that consumers are doing the same; sales fell a further 4 per cent to hover just above the crucial two million mark in April. You could blame the ad campaign, which is limper than Gary Neville, but even a slow-down in sales decline is ambitious enough in this shrinking market.

Anyway, Trinity Mirror's marketing team has fired up the PowerPoint and got a strategy together. But it's a dubious one - for starters, its rival, News International, is an old hand at price-cutting and the aggressively competitive Richard Desmond is clearly up for a scrap over at Express Newspapers.

But more seriously, the marketing strategy seems to undermine the editorial one. The new Daily Mirror has worked hard to persuade us that it is not interested in grubbing around for readers at the sleazy end of the tabloid market and that its more serious journalism makes it more akin to the broadsheets.

From this elevated stance it has cocked a snook at its fellow tabloids, yet by engaging in a price war it has set itself squarely among them once again. For all the good journalistic intentions, Monday's Daily Mirror loudly proclaimed its tabloid credentials. Almost as loudly, in fact, as the laughter down at Associated Newspapers.

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