MEDIA ANALYSIS: A gem yet to be discovered

The First Post is a successful current affairs website, but it is still largely unheard of in the PR industry. Hannah Marriott looks at what the site has to offer.

The First Post: 1.3m unique users in January
The First Post: 1.3m unique users in January

Media commentators and internet enthusiasts are very excited about The First Post. But many PR professionals, it seems, have not even heard of it.

So, for the uninitiated, The First Post is an online current affairs magazine. It launched independently two-and-a-half years ago - with former comment editor of The Sunday Telegraph Mark Law as its editor - and was acquired by Dennis Publishing in January.

When it was bought, Dennis said the site would expand the company's 'current affairs portfolio', complementing the news magazine The Week, which does not have an online presence.

Rather than focusing on breaking news, as many traditional media organisations have with their online presence, The First Post offers digests of news, sport and opinion from the day's press. It also boasts exclusively written features and opinion, and devotes a great deal of space to arts and lifestyle, including reviews and fashion.

Complete package
In short, The First Post has everything you would expect from a news magazine, written in a brief, snappy, screen-friendly style, so readers do not need to scroll down the screen to finish articles.

It uses large, eye-catching pictures and is home to plenty of video content. Its 'entertainment area' includes a virtual cinema, 'smoking room' and arcade.

The magazine's unique approach to online publishing has earned it many admirers in the media world.

One fan - Borkowski PR founder Mark Borkowski - describes the site as 'a place for old school journalism and considered opinion'.

He believes it attracts big-name columnists (regulars include Sir Peregrine Worsthorne and Alexander Cockburn), because 'people enjoy writing for it'.

'It is somewhere real issues can be tackled in a responsible manner. It is read by the real influencers,' he adds.

Dennis Interactive MD Pete Whitton confirms this. A reader survey, conducted in January, found that the average reader age is 47, and readers (two-thirds of whom are male) are high earners. Half are educated to degree level or higher.

Also in January, The First Post had its readership figures audited by ABCe, clocking up an impressive 1.3m unique users for the month. According to Nielsen Online, 132,000 of these readers are based in Britain.

An attractive audience indeed. So why have so few PROs heard of - or worked with - the site?

Many say that they feel unsure as to whether the site would be receptive to PR-led content. Indeed, Borkowski says he thinks that the site 'probably tries to rise above the clamour of PROs'. That said, he has worked with The First Post, providing photographs and access to events.

Editor Law confirms that the opportunities for PR-led coverage are mainly isolated to the arts and entertainment sections. Law applauds arts specialist Colman Getty, for example, for understanding 'exactly what we do and do not need'.

Colman Getty CEO Dotti Irving says she has managed to get plenty of news and features into the online magazine, particularly in the areas of books, arts and education.

She says: 'It is a brilliant website with a very intelligent readership. If PR professionals do not know of it then that is to their detriment.'

Also, the website's wealth of multimedia coverage - which ranges from film clips and behind the scenes clips to music videos - means that there are many opportunities for companies with access to such content.

'Significant target'
Last week, online PR specialist Way To Blue secured a prominent spot on the site's arts pages for the film it is promoting, Margot at the Wedding. Senior publicist Stuart Coles describes it as a 'significant target' for online film promotion. This is because - unlike many online-only sites - it is considered 'a trusted champion' by readers, thanks to 'the quality of its reviews'.

Add to this the fact that it 'embraces the fast pace of the internet', he says, and it is a truly 'valuable tool in helping spread the word on intelligent movies, extended features and viral teasers'.

Sounds like it is time for uninitiated PR professionals to get clicking.

What do PROs need to understand about The First Post?
Most PR companies who have read the site realise that we are not in the business of simply rewording press releases. We like to run our own pieces without pursuing the agenda of the pack, so anyone who can offer a strong story to us exclusively stands a better chance.

Mark LawIs The First Post on the PR radar?
While most PR0s know about us, even after two-and-a-half years there are still some who do not. Editorial opportunities for PR people are rare because of the character of the core part of the site. But we have an affluent, loyal audience and offer plenty of promotional opportunities.

Are there any particular sections of the site that do benefit from help from PROs?
We get valuable help from PROs in the areas of arts, entertainment and lifestyle. Alex Sumner, who oversees all the video content of the site - including trailers and pop videos - has valuable help from PR people such as Andrew Timms at Substance PR and Sheena Patel at ThinkJam.

When should PRs get in touch?
We are constantly updating so our deadlines are usually 'now'. We prefer to confer without having a news conference.

- Mark Law Editor
- Nigel Horne Executive editor (News and comment)
- Simon Hogg Deputy editor
- David Jenkins Books editor
- Holly Kyte Arts and Life editor
- Alex Sumner Video producer
- Richard Burton Picture editor

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