For PROs the new site is an opportunity for them to brush up on blogger relations.
Billed as 'Mail Online's new web community for politics, current affairs and controversy', RightMinds, which launched in early September, is the brainchild of ex-Daily Telegraph associate editor and columnist Simon Heffer.
Heffer says it was his vision to assemble a team of bloggers - including the Mail's Quentin Letts and Richard Littlejohn - who, broadly speaking, 'take the same view of the world as the Daily Mail', and set up a community for them to exchange comment and opinion.
Although the site has been dubbed 'the Heffington Post' by the media, Heffer says it is not a response to the recently launched Huffington Post, or other comment sites like The Guardian's Comment is Free. Instead, he says, he wanted to create a space for people with shared right-of-centre political leanings to come and voice their opinions: 'I thought this is a way to involve and attract more readers by positively exploiting the content we've already got.'
There is no doubt, given the Mail Online's healthy boast of more than 70 million monthly users (ABCe July 2011), that PR professionals will see the new site as a prime target.
'Commenting on stories is a good start to make contact, but PROs should always be transparent about who they are and who they represent,' says Citigate Dewe Rogerson director Phil Szomszor.
He adds that PROs often mistakenly think bloggers are malleable and there to write positively about their clients when, if anything, the opposite is true: 'They don't have a duty to be balanced and invariably don't have to answer to editors or advertisers. Blogger relations isn't - or shouldn't be - advertorial placement,' he says.
Lexis PR's head of corporate affairs and b2b services James Thellusson agrees: 'The point of the medium is its licence to say things mainstream media might not, or in ways they might not.'
He adds: 'Bloggers are important because the best are opinion-formers in their own right. They often have passionate and involved audiences who interact with the blogger or the topic. This means they can help or hurt you, depending what the issue is.'
As well as heading out and making contact with bloggers face-to-face, Szomszor adds that there is value in trying to track regular RightMinds writers to see if there are opportunities for engagement. 'The writers may well have a presence on other sites, such as Twitter, or write their own blogs,' he says. 'So it might be easier to build up a relationship there first.'
Monthly unique users 72,964,048 monthly browsers (ABCe July 2011)
Daily unique users 4,239,304 on average (ABCe July 2011)
Publisher Associated Newspapers
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7938 6000.
A MINUTE WITH ... SIMON HEFFER, EDITOR, RIGHTMINDS
How would you sum up RightMinds?
It is further development of an enormously successful website that capitalises on the politics and commentary content that's in the Daily Mail. But it's not just politics; RightMinds is about any controversial issues in the news that our bloggers want to talk about.
Can anyone approach you and ask to blog?
Yes. If people want to be a regular blogger they can approach me. Also if somebody wants to write a reply, for example if a politician or public figure says 'there's something I don't think the Mail got right about me' or 'I want to say my piece', then we'll give them some space.
What crossover is there with the Mail Online and Daily Mail content?
If you look at the Mail Online home page you'll see some stories have RightMinds links under them, so you can see what we've commented on.
What opportunities are there for PROs to interact with RightMinds?
I think PROs would have to use the traditional route of placing content in a news story that would get picked up by a blogger. But I have at least one PR man (Nick Wood, CEO, Media Intelligence Partners and former Tory media chief) writing one of our blogs and his political clients do blogs about politics.