Look in the Mirror to make money from websites

BRITAIN’S Daily Mirror has further developed its online niche strategy by launching celebrity gossip website 3am.co.uk, drawing praise from a local executive who sees topic-based sites as the future of online media.

The new website is an extension of the Mirror’s 3am celebrity column. The newspaper recently launched mirrorfootball.co.uk, a standalone entity aimed at the UK’s legion of football fans.

News Ltd’s Simon Holt, whose win in the 2008 PANPA Hegarty Prize allowed him to take a global study tour, believes niche websites such as the Mirror’s pair are crucial for publishers to make money from online content.

His theory is that “verticals” – or specific topics of interest – should be kept separate from each other online in order to build communities.

“The race is clearly on to capture communities of interest,” Mr Holt said.

“There is a clear feeling in the global media that the first website to gain the loyalty of a mass niche market will be most likely to succeed long-term.

“And if we work on the theory that the vertical with the biggest fan base wins, celebrity gossip and football are right up there.”

Mr Holt believes the Daily Mirror could have picked two winners with the celebrity subject matter.

“The celebrity gossip market is in huge demand. It is perhaps a shame that it took someone like Perez Hilton to prove to everybody that there was mileage in a site which focuses on a niche.”

Building the community around the content is only half the battle, according to Mr Holt, of Sydney’s Cumberland community Newspaper Group.

“They might attract millions of users with the latest innovative functionality, but the true litmus test will be to see whether they can effectively monetise the sites. It will be interesting to see how they decide to best engage clients with their user base.”

Mr Holt will present at Newspapers: The Future Forum, PANPA’s key industry event for 2009. Attendance is free for PANPA members.


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