Mirror online can learn from rivals' success as it looks to build 'distinct identity'

The man in charge of Trinity Mirror’s massive investment in its digital newsroom has said it can learn from the success of Mail Online and the Guardian website.

Steve Anglesey, publisher of Trinity Mirror Digital, said he wanted the combined Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People website to develop a “distinct identity” after the group announced a hiring spree that will double its digital output.

“There’s so much potential, as the Mail and Guardian have shown, and there are great lessons for us from what they’ve both done,” Anglesey told Press Gazette. “Those sites, along with the Telegraph, have strong identities and that’s what we’re driving at too.”

Earlier this week, Trinity Mirror revealed plans to recruit 25 new editorial staff to work exclusively on digital and online content, doubling its workforce.

The move comes as the Mirror’s rival redtop The Sun prepares to move its online content behind a paywall next month. Anglesey would not be drawn on whether the Mirror planned to scoop up any digital readers not prepared to pay for a post-paywall Sun but he did say its own content would remain free for the present.

“There is an element of stepping into the unknown in some ways,” he said. “But we are pretty confident that a paywall is not something that is on our radar at the moment.”

Despite looking to emulate the success of the Mail and Guardian, which are both actively courting the US market, Anglesey said the Mirror will continue to concentrate on domestic stories.

“We are still at the start of this but we are focusing on a UK audience primarily,” he added.

Trinity Mirror has set internal targets for how much extra traffic it hopes the new recruits will be able to generate, though Anglesey would not reveal what these were.

In the last 18 months, user numbers have more than doubled on the back of exclusive stories such as the pictures of Nigella Lawson being attacked at a restaurant by husband Charles Saatchi and video footage smuggled out of North Korea showing images of the oppressive military regime.

But despite that recent growth, Mirror Group Digital still lags some way behind the Mail Online and Guardian. ABC figures for May 2013 show it attracted 26.3m unique browsers, while the Guardian site had 82.9m and the Mail 128.6m.

Although the site is expected to more than double its weekly output to 2,000 stories, Anglesey said the investment was about more than just volume.

“We’re trying to build up an identity, which we haven’t been able to do before,” he said, adding that the group wanted to find people who fit that identity, which he described as “sceptical, inquisitive, fun, left-leaning”.

Asked whether the website’s identity would be overtly political, he said: “That’s got to be an element of it. We want this to stand for something and we believe that’s a good way to be.

“It’s that Mirror thing of fighting for the underdog or the ordinary guy.”

He also said that the group would recruit more distinctive voices from social media following the success of Fleet Street Fox and TV critic Profanity Swan.

“They have given us a dimension that we didn’t previously have,” explained Anglesey.

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