Media: Why revamp may not mend cracks in the Mirror

This week has seen a fundamental relaunch of the Mirror as ’the paper for the new Millennium’. Editor Piers Morgan is striving to put his annus horribilis behind him.

This week has seen a fundamental relaunch of the Mirror as ’the

paper for the new Millennium’. Editor Piers Morgan is striving to put

his annus horribilis behind him.



The timing is right - tabloid newspapers enjoy their best circulations

in January and February as overdrawn readers slump gloomily at home. And

much of the change, which includes an extra eight pages on average per

day, a daily features section aimed at women and more consumer advice,

is basically sound. It would be surprising if the current burst of

promotion did not produce a small upwards blip.



The paper, trailing far behind the Sun, needed more content. Even the

bold poster-style front page, based on the New York Post, may work if a

way is found to advertise the best stories on it.



But the move speaks volumes about the problems rocking the title, which

the revamp only partly addresses. As a rule successful titles, sure of

their territory such as the Sun and the Daily Mail, do not need to

relaunch, because they constantly tweak themselves and instinctively

understand their readers. It is papers in a genuine mess, such as the

Express - where the battle to stem losses and move towards seven day

working has yet to show fruit - and now the Mirror, watching readers

leak away in thousands, which are forced along this path. The latest

June/November national readership figures show the Mirror lost 6.9 per

cent of its adult readers in the period.



Only the Express, with an 8.5 per cent loss, suffered more. In contrast

the Daily Mail rose by 18.6 per cent. Talk about the Mail outstripping

the Mirror is not far-fetched. When it comes to the numbers of coveted

readers under 45, the two are almost neck and neck.



The Mirror’s problems are manifold and go back years, perhaps to 1969

when Rupert Murdoch got his hands on the Sun. There was an awful lot

wrong with the paper David Montgomery took over from the deceased,

disgraced Maxwell four years ago. When Maxwell bought it in 1984 it was

well below its peak. But the paper has, tragically in my view, been

gutted of its best writers, lost its radical campaigning edge and with

that, its sense of popular seriousness.



The Mirror still matters because it is Britain’s only Labour-supporting

mass market tabloid. If it were in a healthy state it should be on a

roll, poised to play a lively part as a popular critical sounding board

for Tony Blair and an incoming Labour government. But there is little

sign it has the intellectual firepower at its core to do that.



I’ve spent much time canvassing opinion about the relaunch. The most

telling thing was that influential people I had assumed would know all

about it were completely blank because they no longer took the Mirror at

home, or read it elsewhere. It is horrifying how a paper’s influence can

drain away, positioned for the Millennium or not.



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