Fleet street sites

A BrandNet study into the websites of UK national newspapers exposes a chasm between those that have excelled in translating their brands to an online format and those which have taken a rather half-hearted approach.

<b>The measure of newspaper sites</b> No.1 The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) Location 17.3 Navigation 20.0 Content 14.0 Delivery of Proposition 16.0 Memorability 16.2 ISETs TOTAL 83.5 No.2 The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk) Location 16.9 Navigation 16.5 Content 16.0 Delivery of Proposition 17.8 Memorability 16.0 ISETs TOTAL 83.2 No.3 The Daily Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk) Location 18.7 Navigation 16.5 Content 14.5 Delivery of Proposition 10.6 Memorability 18.7 ISETs TOTAL 79.0 No.4 The Financial Times (www.ft.com) Location 16.0 Navigation 17.6 Content 15.5 Delivery of Proposition 11.3 Memorability 15.0 ISETs TOTAL 75.4 No.5 The Times (www.thetimes.co.uk) Location 13.3 Navigation 16.5 Content 15.0 Delivery of Proposition 13.3 Memorability 14.8 ISETs TOTAL 72.9 No.6 The Mirror (www.mirror.co.uk) Location 14.7 Navigation 11.8 Content 10.0 Delivery of Proposition 12.0 Memorability 12.0 ISETs TOTAL 60.5 No.7 The Independent (www.independent.co.uk Location 13.3 Navigation 11.8 Content 11.0 Delivery of Proposition 9.7 Memorability 13.2 ISETs TOTAL 59.0 No.8 The Daily Star www.megastar.co.uk) Location 5.3 Navigation 16.4 Content 12.0 Delivery of Proposition 8.7 Memorability 13.2 ISETs TOTAL 55.6 No.9 The Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk) Location 10.7 Navigation 0.0 Content 5.0 Delivery of Propositions 8.0 Memorability 6.8 ISETs TOTAL 30.5 No.10 The Daily Express (www.express.co.uk) Location 10.7 Navigation 0.0 Content 4.0 Delivery of Proposition 5.3 Memorability 2.8 ISETs TOTAL 22.8

The measure of newspaper sites

Most newspaper groups have been quick to jump on the dot-com bandwagon but their digital offerings do not always compare favourably with their newsstand product, according to BrandNet research which looked at the websites of ten national daily newspapers using iSETs (the Internet Strategy Evaluation Tools).

The sites range from very good to extremely poor, with few occupying an average middle ground.

The Daily Star and The Express both use a “let’s tease them with the front page and invite them to buy it at the newsagent” Internet strategy. Neither sites offer any actual news or content. This “strategy” is perhaps most surprising in relation to The Express, which is struggling to define a meaningful proposition for itself in the newspaper middle market. Potential Express readers would leave the site with little insight into the paper’s editorial policy, added value offers or overall appeal. Instead of using new media to refresh a brand struggling in traditional media, The Express presents itself online as empty, indistinct and unremarkable.

A more surprising middle market failure is the Daily Mail. The digital experience starts well, with the front page carrying useful links to the jobs, money and sport sections of the online paper. There are also links to other papers within the Associated Newspapers stable such as the London Evening Standard and Metro. There’s just one problem: there’s no Daily Mail. Instead the paper’s online content centres around its Femail section, with celebrity gossip, fashion tips and horoscopes, but no news stories.

In the very competitive lower end of the newspaper market, the battle of the “red tops” is being fought by The Sun, the Daily Star and The Mirror. While the Daily Star has a clearly defined offline proposition – more titillation than The Sun – this stance is not matched by the paper’s online presence: dailystar.co.uk.

The site, like The Express’, is a one-page taster. But, for the more inquisitive, there is the Megastar site. Surprisingly, megastar.co.uk is not accessible through the Daily Star site – it can only be found through some of the top search engines (not including Altavista). The Megastar has got all the content you would expect: news, football, showbiz gossip and giveaways.

The Sun website is easy to find, well branded with news and features from all the regulars such as Dear Deidre, Clarkson, Littlejohn and Page 3. The site also has a Babes Gallery, building on the appeal of the paper’s page 3 feature. While the Daily Star has not invested in its semi-naked brand equity, The Sun is capitalizing on its page 3 assets. The site contains digital exclusives, including a chance to appear on page 3 and EastEnders, interviews with pop stars and competitions to win cars, DVD players and holidays.

The Mirror’s website, while not as good as The Sun’s, is quite impressive in its own right. The index at the top of the home page is well laid out and makes navigation easy. But the pages throughout the site were much slower to download than the competition, which negated the effect of the appealing layout. While the site has good news and features sections and a useful image search facility, it suffers from inaccessible articles and empty sections.

The Independent has a navigation system which tries to be clever and “new media” rather than replicating or building on the equities of the paper index system. There are useful links to Waterstone’s, flight deals, underwear and links to other sites under the “50 Best” section.

But the paper needs to be more overt in its content and online value. Although the site provides consumer offers and the content alone is worthy of a repeat visit, it is the least impressive of the broadsheets. The Independent could provide readers an active news and sport service through e-mail – just like The Mirror.

The Times site is well branded, informative, fast, reliable, well laid-out and easy to use. It is crammed with offers from travel to gardening, and provides useful FAQs (frequently asked questions) as well as contact details if your query is not answered there. It was surprising that a brand as steeped in history as the Times detailed so little of its past and development. The site was impressive, useful and well branded without being particularly personable or warm in comparison with the Financial Times or The Guardian.

The Telegraph site is enormous, with useful content that is well organised. The search facility makes the site fairly easy to use, although its visual presentation is somewhat cluttered and daunting. The depth of information goes much further than the Independent, which only archives a couple of years’ worth of articles and features. The comprehensiveness of the site, including travel offers, palm pilot giveaways, links to Amazon.com and interactive football, makes it not only a reference tool but also a useful daily companion.

The Guardian is the best branded of all the broadsheets with a simple clear index and navigation system. The site is reliable and quick, providing access to today’s and all the week’s editions, plus an in-depth archive section with a useful search facility. For those in a hurry, the day’s paper is provided in a light-graphics, swift-download format – which is a thoughtful touch. Despite the depth of content, the site map, help and search facility make it easy to get around, while the home page is always locatable, which prevents users getting or feeling lost.

Like the other broadsheets, there were excellent sections on jobs, work, media, shopping, education, film and sport. The Guardian also provides content tailored to people’s time requirements and interactive features such as personal e-mail contacts, news quizzes, crosswords and talkboards, which make the brand more approachable and personal.

The Financial Times probably does the best job in terms of balancing a reader-friendly tone of voice with comprehensive, valuable content and direct online offers to purchase related titles such as Investors Chronicle. If anything, the offers are more dominant than the branding – considering the pink equity of the FT, the site surprisingly lacks the visual impact of the paper format. The help and site map are easily found, and the paper’s authority on markets and shares is translated into a media-relevant portfolio management feature. Unfortunately if you have an Apple Mac (as 15 per cent of the population do) it does not work. Links to relevant sites and online access to FT editions around the world give the site a sense of importance and global scale.

Without the sales figures for the newspapers and their corresponding hit rates on their respective sites, it is impossible to say whether an online presence erodes offline sales. Certainly, a newspaper website with daily updates and interactive information must be an expensive investment. For newspaper owners owners, the strength of the brand and consumer relationship can be deepened, providing greater loyalty and further profit opportunities through value added services such as travel and subscriptions.

Exclusive to Marketing Week readers: since September, BrandNet has reviewed over 250 websites, exclusively for Marketing Week. To recognise this and the launch of a consumer iSETs, BrandNet is offering readers, who have a major brand website, the opportunity to have their website reviewed, with a full page summary/analysis, free. Simply request an analysis and summary through the BrandNet website at www.brandnet.co.uk.

<b>The measure of newspaper sites </b> No.1 The Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk) Location 17.3 Navigation 20.0 Content 14.0 Delivery of Proposition 16.0 Memorability 16.2 ISETs TOTAL 83.5 No.2 The Sun (www.thesun.co.uk) Location 16.9 Navigation 16.5 Content 16.0 Delivery of Proposition 17.8 Memorability 16.0 ISETs TOTAL 83.2 No.3 The Daily Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk) Location 18.7 Navigation 16.5 Content 14.5 Delivery of Proposition 10.6 Memorability 18.7 ISETs TOTAL 79.0 No.4 The Financial Times (www.ft.com) Location 16.0 Navigation 17.6 Content 15.5 Delivery of Proposition 11.3 Memorability 15.0 ISETs TOTAL 75.4 No.5 The Times (www.thetimes.co.uk) Location 13.3 Navigation 16.5 Content 15.0 Delivery of Proposition 13.3 Memorability 14.8 ISETs TOTAL 72.9 No.6 The Mirror (www.mirror.co.uk) Location 14.7 Navigation 11.8 Content 10.0 Delivery of Proposition 12.0 Memorability 12.0 ISETs TOTAL 60.5 No.7 The Independent (www.independent.co.uk Location 13.3 Navigation 11.8 Content 11.0 Delivery of Proposition 9.7 Memorability 13.2 ISETs TOTAL 59.0 No.8 The Daily Star www.megastar.co.uk) Location 5.3 Navigation 16.4 Content 12.0 Delivery of Proposition 8.7 Memorability 13.2 ISETs TOTAL 55.6 No.9 The Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk) Location 10.7 Navigation 0.0 Content 5.0 Delivery of Propositions 8.0 Memorability 6.8 ISETs TOTAL 30.5 No.10 The Daily Express (www.express.co.uk) Location 10.7 Navigation 0.0 Content 4.0 Delivery of Proposition 5.3 Memorability 2.8 ISETs TOTAL 22.8

The measure of newspaper sites

Methodology

The websites have been evaluated by BrandNet, using the iSETs tool-set. ISETs is designed to help understand how effectively a brand’s essence, equities and value are translated digitally on the Internet. To do this, iSETs measures five key factors and allocates scores against each area:

Location: how easy is the site to find? For example, is the address logical? Will the brand’s consumers be able to find the website easily? Is the address given on the product packaging, in ads and by the brand customer care line? Is it known by the top search engines?

Navigation: looking at the structure and layout, can you move around the site easily and quickly? Are there long download times? Does it crash? Are there links that take you off the main site?

Content: is the site’s branding design and balance consistent with the brand’s offline, above and below-the-line marketing message? Does it provide the right balance between information, entertainment and interaction?

Brand proposition: does the brand strategy alignment look and “feel” like the brand, right through to typeface and colours? Are you always aware of the brand when surfing its website?

Effectiveness: are there good reasons to visit the site? Is it interactive, rather than simply a showcase for the latest ad campaign?

To date, Marketing Week and BrandNet have used iSETs to evaluate over 200 websites including the Top UK Brands, The SuperBrands, Top Retailers and Global Brands.

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