INTERACTIVE: Mirror Group’s cautious conversion to Net ends with launch of new era - Mirror Group’s online chief has the task of making the Web titles wholly different, Gordon MacMillan writes/Profile/Mirror Media

Mirror Group has now put all of its newspapers on the Internet. The Sunday People (www.people. and Sunday Mirror ( were the last to go online in March - a whole three years after the first Mirror Group site, the Daily Record (, went live in 1995.

Mirror Group has now put all of its newspapers on the Internet. The

Sunday People (www.people. and Sunday Mirror

( were the last to go online in March - a whole

three years after the first Mirror Group site, the Daily Record

(, went live in 1995.

Having flirted early on with AOL and experimented with CD-Roms,

everything Mirror Group’s new-media arm, Mirror Media, does in future

will be on the Internet, says its managing director, Geoff Stimson.

’We did sports databases on CD-Rom and we wanted to sell them to

consumers,’ he says. ’We had two: ’Cricket as a celebration of summer’s

greatest game’ and ’The Ultimate Soccer CD-Rom’. They did OK, but by the

time they started coming out, it was possible to do it on the


There are no bells and no whistles and seemingly little to distinguish

between four of Mirror Group’s five titles. The exception is the

successful Sporting Life (, which is a

joint-venture Website with PA News. It is almost 18 months old and is

wholly separate from the doomed ink and paper version, which closed this


The move to put all the titles online appears mildly curious at a time

when rivals in the UK newspaper business have displayed a reluctance to

go down this path. Both Associated Newspapers and Express Newspapers

have left their main daily titles, the Daily Mail and Express, off the

Net, saying there are too many general news sources online already.

However, the suggestion that Mirror Media might have waited until it had

something distinct to offer Web users is dismissed by Stimson. He says

that putting the papers online is a necessary step in working out what

each paper should do once it is on the Net.

’The focus last year and at the beginning of this year has been to give

the papers a site. That is our job. Once we have done that, it is up to

the individual papers’ editors to decide what they want to do with their


Initially, the online papers are carrying 95 per cent of their ink

parents’ content. The aim is to get that figure down to about 5 per

cent. The Sporting Life alone can be said to have achieved this. Indeed,

Stimson estimates the crossover between print and Web content is no more

than 2 per cent, with the rest of the site’s material comprising

mini-profiles of sports stars, as well as betting and news.

But for the Mirror (, which has been online for seven

months, the 95 per cent figure has only fallen to around 80 per


Stimson insists it is continuing downward, helped by integrated

promotions such as a recent one for Hoverspeed.

In the coming few weeks, Stimson says Mirror Media will unveil a number

of partnerships to bring significant new content to the online


’It’s difficult to say much without being too revealing. But we want to

give people a reason to go back to the site. The ideas we are looking at

are based around leisure and entertainment.’

One simple and effective example is a partnership between the

Independent online (still run by Mirror Group) and Blackwells, the

online bookshop. Blackwells has a transaction service in the book review

part of the site. It’s an added value service, says Stimson, that will

entice readers to come back.

Wooing readers back is one thing - getting them there in the first place

is another. Stimson says all the titles are enjoying heavy traffic.

Sporting Life is by far the biggest, serving 5.3 million page

impressions a month, with the Mirror hitting 1.4 million. However, the

Mirror does have a problem. While the average Net user falls into the AB

demographic group, readers of the Mirror titles fall into the C1C2

grouping. According to Stimson, it’s a bridgeable gap, but there will be

no attempt to redefine the papers online, as Express Newspapers did when

it launched the Daily Star on the Web as Megastar.

Megastar has been tailored to the tastes of surfers of the men’s

magazines, Maxim and FHM. But, Stimson says, Megastar has chased

eyeballs with sex, an option absolutely unsuitable for the Mirror


’We think a number of things will happen on the Net,’ he says in


’One of those is that there are many people who used to buy the Mirror

as a second paper, and have not bought it for a while. By giving them

interesting Internet activities that appeal, we may win them back.’