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Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI) is planning to spin several specialist content sites off its core newspaper sites in the next few months. MirrorFootball.co.uk is already planned and Thursday morning’s earnings report revealed plans for a 3am.co.uk celeb gossip site. CEO Sly Bailey has one eye on charging for parts of those sites – but that’s some way off…
Asked about the recent re-ignition of the pay-for-content debate, Bailey told analysts on the conference call: “Rather than concern ourselves with what the payment mechanism might be … why would a consumer pay for general news content when they can continue to get that from the BBC for free? If you’re publishing in areas of high-value or well-differentiated content, there are potential opportunities to think about that (pay walls).
“The next launches you’re seeing from Trinity Mirror are on August 6, MirrorFootball.co.uk, taking us in to an area where we do have unique content in the form of our archive, and developing an engaged audience who are passionate about that, that is more definable than a general news audience … thinking over time about how we might develop audience and what the pay model might be over time.
“The important thing for us is to develop the brand with the right content that engages a passionate audience, and therefore to have a diversified model that isn’t just about advertising. We think that is the next stage, and whether over time that gives you the opportunity to think about whether there are areas you can charge for, that’s an open discussion – but you have to create that content overall in order to have that option.”
Is Trinity thinking about more vertical sites to follow MirrorFootball.co.uk and 3am.co.uk? “We might very well be,” Bailey said coyly.
It’s refreshing to see a publisher take a steady, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to the renewed pay-for-content debate. Rupert Murdoch’s May missive to his footsoldiers may have been reported as a wish to erect a pay wall around his news sites, and FT editor Lionel Barber may be expecting “almost all” papers to charge in 2010 – but we’ve always said that a piecemeal approach is more likely.
Trinity has clearly observed the wisdom that has built up recently around, for example, FT.com’s growing online subs base – that highly appreciated, unique content is chargeable. The test will come in how it can implement this maxim itself – because, whilst Bailey tries to set MirrorFootball.co.uk and 3am.co.uk apart from “general news” content, many folk will consider soccer and celebs fit squarely in that category.
Bailey says The Mirror has a rich heritage in football reporting and MirrorFootball.co.uk