Mirror Associate Editor: ‘People Not Ready To Give Cash For Content’

While Rupert Murdoch marches News Corp toward a 2010 pay-for-content future, Mirror Group Newspapers is first still fixed on building loyal audience followings. As Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) CEO Sly Bailey’s comments last week suggest, the publisher seems fed up with the ABCe-led quest for hits in a Google (NSDQ: GOOG) world.

The Mirror’s associate editor for development, Matt Kelly, walked me through the newly launched MirrorFootball.co.uk and talked a more considered monetisation strategy, as the group prepares to launch 3am.co.uk. (video link)…

“One this is for sure, we’re playing this very steady; we’re not prejudging future revenue models. I don’t think the paid content model is just there yet; I don’t think people are yet ready to hand over hard cold cash just for content. That’s because of commodisation, people have got used to the fact that (content) is swilling around in Google for free.

“If we’re ever going to get to the point when people are willing to hand over money for content, we have, first of all, to get them to really appreciate the website they’re surfing on … why should the advertiser care about advertising next to content that the user doesn’t care about?

“So it all comes with improving the user experience to the point at MirrorFootball.co.uk becomes the most engaging football site in the world – and then we’ve got a really valuable audience that we can make all sorts of monetisation calls on. We can do merchandise (through these photographs we have), partnerships … display advertising … but we’re seeing that model erode across all websites across the business.

“That, I feel, we’re partially to blame for (as an industry) because we’ve built these websites that are devoid of personality and character, devoid of the brand value that we spend so much time trying to invest in our newspapers – and, when it comes to websites, all we care about is that it’s as indexable as possible, and we strip it out down to the basics of search engine optimisation.

“We’re not looking for one answer – there are myriad answers out there in terms of commercialising our content. We are looking at it very much as a business taking shape. What we’ve done with MirrorFootball.co.uk and 3am.co.uk is take that very first important step to make the user appreciate the value of the content that we’re giving them for free at the moment. Unless we make that first step, then really all is lost in terms of getting them to value our content in any of the monetisable methods.”