Friday, March 7, 2008

Red Tops and Title Bars

There's just something about the British way of phrasing things. as this story about online newspaper site trends in the UK shows:

"As much as the results will provide some comfort to newspaper executives watching their print sales ebb away, they also present a challenge to news organisations now publishing to a global audience."

The Daily Mail in particular has skyrocketed. Why?

"Mail Online's dramatic traffic increase has intrigued the rest of the industry, who have watched its unique user figures accelerate since it started publishing its results through ABCe in August last year. The site's entertainment-led stories and celebrity picture galleries are driving much of the growth. Stories on the decline and occasional rise of Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, along with the death of Heath Ledger, were big hitters, alongside the rest of the Mail's core Femail stories on Kate Moss, dieting and makeovers."

("The decline and occasional rise." This is why we have to have British writers. Americans would have to offer the hope of redemption.)

And: "Of the Mail's online audience, a staggering 72.3% - or 12.9 million users - are outside the UK. Those of both Sun Online and Times Online are around 62%, with the Guardian and Telegraph around 56%."

So if I were a rep going to the High Street stores for the Daily Mail, dropping in on Boots the Chemist and Dixons and House of Fraser, and trying to sell them on how online advertising is superior to print because my ad is targeted and I am not wasting my money on people who are not interested in what I am showing, I have a challenging and possibly unremunerative task facing me. I guess I would fall back on "billions of page views!" and "the sun never sets on the British media!" and hope the advertiser did not ask too many questions.

Now admittedly, the Red Tops and the qualities have never emphasized local advertising; they are distributed nationally and their ads are national, although stores like Dixons, which is the U.K. equivalent of Circuit City, advertise in all of them, and department stores such as Debenhams and John Lewis support the quality papers.

It's simply hard to see how they easily monetize this. It "presents a challenge."

Celebrity news works better online because it is international and because it's timely gossip and because it usually involves video. It's just hard to think that online revenue is going to be the one magic answer that bails the national British press out of this problem. But if it does prove to be -- if the Daily Mail can raise enough money from advertising Entertainment Weekly to U.S. users and package vacations to Hollywood for international tourists and Marry a Woman Who Looks Like Shulpa Shetty sites -- then Boots and Dixons are looking for a vehicle that will effectively carry their message, which still looks a lot like one we know how to publish.

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