The recent move by Trinity Mirror to consolidate its online activities should really come as no surprise. The publisher said it had spent a massive £43m developing its internet portfolio while actual revenue, according to its recent annual results, showed that it made £2.5m. As a result the company said it would spend around £25m this year, which will drop to £15m a year thereafter. A very costly exercise. Is it any wonder that someone like Richard Desmond decided to axe the Expresses’ online division, and others have also scaled back their ventures? For a couple of years, media owners have been developing new online brands and services instead of recognising that their existing titles are their strongest asset. In the case of Trinity Mirror, it owns The Mirror which reaches out to millions. But instead of extending The Mirror name, which is known and recognised, it launched something new in the shape of ic24. Media owners, unlike most internet start-ups, already have a major presence and recognised names, surely using them first should be their objective? One of the reasons for media owners to have online divisions is to grow their market and reach out to people who may not normally buy their print edition. But even then there are certain things that media owners need to recognise when going online. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel, don’t deliver anything less than you promise, recognise your core assets and, above all, don’t separate your online teams from your print teams – they should all be working for the same goal. Otherwise you end up with expensive lessons that many media owners are learning.
The importance of ensuring your online presence includes sound and video should not be underestimated. Research firm NetValue finds that around 1.5 million people in the UK regularly use streaming media, allowing them to listen or watch in real time on the web without waiting for a file to download. In January, the average time spent using streaming content was 60 minutes. With ITN (www.itn.co.uk) broadcasting its news channel on the web and TV simultaneously, the opportunities to create some compelling content for the web are immense as net users look for more useful resources. The other benefit of streaming your TV or radio service is being able to reach ex-pats who are out of the country but still keen on what you offer.
Future Network is to slash its online investment. While it spent around £10m developing its portfolio of online sites, including the UK launch of Daily Radar (www.dailyradar.com) in 2000, this is being cut by at least 50 per cent for the rest of this year.