I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror plc. Let me explain…
When flicking through a couple of the company’s regional dailies last week – papers whose futures need and deserve constant, careful and considered attention – I shuddered at this full, right hand page advert blaring its message out to local readers.
Now let’s be clear: the words ‘Daily Mirror – NO TRIAL PERIOD. NOW FREE ON iPad’ create an undeniably powerful message in the news marketplace.
Put it another way: ‘You don’t need to buy papers any more – the Daily Mirror is FREE, with no strings attached.’
The Mirror ad’s sub-heading made it even plainer: ‘EVERY PAGE AND MORE. INTERACTIVE PUZZLES, EXTRA PICTURES, EXTRA VIDEOS. EXTRA EXTRA.’
Now we all know that national titles need to act boldly online to replicate the pots of gold that were once created by the rainbows of mass readership and huge advertising revenues in printed products.
And, to be honest, it’s not the role of this column to decide whether it’s the Daily Mirror’s ‘free for all’ or The Sun’s pay-walls that will prove the most successful digital strategy.
But I do know one thing: placing high-profile iPad ads in their regional titles will also lead Trinity Mirror to fool’s gold, in terms of the collateral damage caused to print circulations (and potentially digital audiences) in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough and Birmingham.
By all means, if it’s an agreed strategy, tell readers in the Daily Mirror itself that they don’t need to bother buying the paper Monday to Friday any longer.
Why, though, should this policy extend to giving readers of regional dailies a smack-in-the-face reason to stop buying their hometown paper?
Yes, some will argue there’s an elementary reason: Trinity Mirror does not have to pay a penny for these ads that reach into every corner of the United Kingdom.
And yes, if the take-up is good, they might add, the action could help the Daily Mirror’s iPad version secure more revenue, therefore prolonging the title’s life online.
But that’s not much comfort to the likes of the Huddersfield Examiner, the Manchester Evening News or the Coventry Telegraph, is it?
How many adverts will any medium of the Daily Mirror ever carry for the future iPad editions of its regional sisters?
And just to be mischievous, let me put it another way: if The Sun wanted to promote its iPad edition in Trinity Mirror publications, would this advert be accepted?
No, to me – a former Trinity Mirror Regionals man, you should note – these Daily Mirror iPad adverts in regional dailies are clumsy, wrong-footed and potentially very damaging.
Worse, the national, red top parent has barged in wearing its hobnailed size-13s at the worst possible time – just when staff are desperately trying to muster enough resource in the latest restructure that sees scores of regional hacks axed to help fund dozens of new Daily Mirror staff.
Not so fantastic, Mr Fox.