Think carefully before naming your daughter Cassandra. Not only will she share her name with the doomsayer of Greek mythology, but she may now also be mistaken for the Daily Mirror’s wise cove columnist, bespectacled eyes glowering as he “thinks the unthinkable”.
Reinstating Cassandra, after a 35-year absence, is one of the innovations Piers Morgan has instigated as part of the paper’s relaunch last week. Another is a return to its “Daily Mirror” monicker, so renovation might be a better description.
The move is part of a drive to position the title as a more serious paper – presumably not solely in the pursuit of truth and justice, but to lift circulation at a time of declining ad revenues and falling readership. There aren’t many inviting gaps in the newspaper market into which to reposition a title, and there is little mileage in trying to beat The Sun at its own game, or taking on the newly invigorated Daily Star. So, “serious” it is, then.
Significant circulation growth is extremely difficult to achieve, and the popular newspaper sector has been in long-term decline. One way to manage that decline and maximise revenue is to attract advertising from brands that wouldn’t normally have considered the Mirror. A sound strategy, but Morgan has been keen to emphasise that “serious” doesn’t have to mean “upmarket”. That sentiment is probably calculated to reassure readers than to attract potential advertisers, and it’s fair to assume that the paper’s more “serious” readers, while not upmarket, will be nearer mid-market than the current readership. Where will these serious-minded citizens come from? Morgan hopes they will be occasional readers, who can be persuaded to buy the paper more frequently. He is clear that he will not be content to manage decline. However, attracting new readers to a more serious paper surely means looking for a slightly more upmarket readership – making readers of the Daily Mail and The Express the most likely targets.
Poaching readers from the conservative, but highly aspirational, Mail seems unlikely at first glance. It could be argued that the titles do share a common tone at times – a “something should be done” voice-of-reason editorial stance – but the still-ailing Express should be a softer target. The paper continues to lose sales, and readership figures should give Morgan cause for hope: 15 per cent of Express readers also read the Daily Mirror at some point, whereas only ten per cent of Mail readers do – although interestingly, both these figures have declined in the past three years.
Although attracting new readers sounds like an over-optimistic strategy, this repositioning has done the rounds of the focus groups, so some consumers are saying it has real appeal. With the UK media appearing increasingly homogeneous – and suffering frequent accusations of dumbing down – any move that gives readers and advertisers a stronger, more diverse newspaper choice, and helps the national press to command the respect of its readers, will be good news all round.
Jennie Soffe is new business and marketing director of Universal McCann