By: Steve Outing
“I SAW MY FRIENDS DIE.” “BRAVE BRIDE’S WEDDING TEARS.” “POLICE HUNT FEET FREAK.” “SEX SHAME BOSSES IN BLACKMAIL PLOT.” “GREAT JAIL BREAK-IN!”
Tabloid journalism — the infamous British variety — has hit the World Wide Web. The Daily Record and Sunday Mail of Glasgow (circ. 740,000 and 860,000, respectively), Scotland’s largest selling newspapers, have launched an advertiser-supported Web site. According to online editor David Mill, the Mirror Group-owned newspapers in June became the first British tabloid to go online.
Compared to the run-of-the-mill online newspaper service, the Daily Record is certainly less serious. In addition to those eye-catching headlines above, the site offers such enticements as contests where you can win a bottle of whiskey or a Daily Record t-shirt; a Scottish cartoon strip; crossword puzzles; and “Agony Aunt,” a Dear Abby-like column that seems to answer questions predominantly about sex and bizarre relationship troubles.
The site also invites reader letters, and a recent visit to the letters page was enlightening. On the day I visited, not a single letter was from within the UK; most were from the U.S., followed by Europe, Australia and Canada, and most of the writers appeared to be Scottish ex-patriates thrilled to get the hometown news via the Internet. The lesson: Don’t dismiss the ex-patriate market as you set up your own newspaper online service.
Serving local content worldwide
I recently interviewed David Mill about his newspaper’s new Web service:
Q: What makes this site different from the hundreds of other online services by newspapers?
A: It is the first British “tabloid” to go online and, as such, provides a new service for British readers at home and overseas. In addition, some features not included in the printed titles, such as Tourism and Historical Scotland, also offer information for people of other nationalities with an interest in the Scottish scene.
Q: How much activity has the site seen?
A: In one of the first weeks, the site had more than 65,000 hits. We hope to soon accurately translate that to numbers of readers. We are seeing a growth in interest which is encouraging considering that the edition was launched with little publicity.
Q: What are the most popular features of the service?
A: After the News lead of the day we’re seeing that Sport is particularly popular and expect that to increase when the British soccer season begins. Our Picture Gallery and Contests are also gaining high interest.
Q: Is this service targeted at readers in Scotland primarily, or do you expect to get a substantial foreign readership?
A: While we’re pleased to see a number of readers from within Scotland, the service is also aimed at people living elsewhere in the UK or overseas and our stats show a strong interest in America with letters also being received from such as Israel, Japan, Bermuda, Australia and mainland Europe.
Q: Will the service be advertiser supported, or do you expect to charge readers at some point?
A: We have no immediate plans to charge for this service. It is, indeed, advertising, that we see as the main source of revenue.
Q: I would guess that the demographics of your readership would not show a high degree of computer usage. If that’s true, why did the Daily Record go online?
A: The printed Daily Record and Sunday Mail have an across-the-spectrum readership as the above circulation figures indicate. While a home PC is not yet very common in the UK, that is rapidly changing. In any case, a large part of our target audience lives outside Scotland and we hope the material in the online title is of interest to all potential readers, not just those who currently purchase the printed papers.
Q: What can we expect to see on the site in the future?
A: I am currently working on a much larger and very exciting project which will eventually incorporate the Daily Record and Sunday Mail. On that one, all I can currently say is “watch this cyber space …”
David Mill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Pacheco has left the Denver Post and is heading to the Washington Post’s Digital Ink as an Online Producer.
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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org