Mirror Group has now put all of its newspapers on the Internet. The
Sunday People (www.people. co.uk) and Sunday Mirror
(www.sundaymirror.co.uk) were the last to go online in March - a whole
three years after the first Mirror Group site, the Daily Record
(www.record-mail.co.uk), 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 (www.sportinglife.com), 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 (www.mirror.co.uk), 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.’