When rebrands go wrong

(And how to avoid the pitfalls)

Sunday People website to be funded by native advertising

Trinity Mirror’s Sunday People is undergoing a multimillion pound relaunch which will see it get its own website for the first time away from Mirror.co.uk, powered solely by native advertising.

The People website

A screenshot of how The People website will look when it launches on 5 November.

The new responsive design website is being positioned as a “Buzzfeed for grown-ups” and will use a picture-heavy interface, repackaging the most popular stories from around the web, with the short-form articles ranging in topic from celebrity, to football to beauty.

Regular features will include “News Crunch”, an article that will appear at intervals throughout the day collating the six news stories its journalists feel will act as a “sat nav to what’s going on in the world”, as well as Buzzfeed-style list-based articles.

The site will also reorganise where articles appear depending on users’ previous browsing behaviour and the way in which they have rated or shared the stories they have read.

Marketing for the digital relaunch - the majority of which will appear across sister title The Daily Mirror’s inventory - is set to carry the strapline “News without the boring bits”.

The site will not feature any banner ads and will be funded soley through a unique form of native advertising.

After a “pre-nup” trial period, advertisers will sign up to a contract whereby they will join a list of clients from which journalists can choose to associate their stories with. An article about the new celebrity winter fashion trend of “stripper boots”, for example, could be accompanied with products from New Look - a launch advertiser with the site - that users can click through to purchase.

Other advertisers set to appear on the site once it launches on 5 November include Monarch Airlines, House of Fraser, Nails Inc and Money Corp.

The digital relaunch is being led by Sue Douglas, publishing director of the recently created Trinity Mirror subsidiary Sunday Brands, which also spans regional titles Wales on Sunday, the Sunday Sun in Newcastle, Sunday Mail in Scotland and Sunday Mercury in Birmingham. She joined Trinity Mirror in June this year, just weeks after her former firm Phoenix Venture’s £10m bid to take a stake in the Sunday People was rejected by the publisher.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Douglas described the digital project as a “mini incubator”, with the “legacy and power of a big media owner” taking on the risk of trialling a revenue model new to the publishing industry. She also compares The People website to a “speed boat” floating next to the giant “trawler” of a publisher like Trinity Mirror, which “can take time to turn around and manoeuvre”. If successful, the other titles operated under the Sunday Brands business could also be brought into the digital People fold.

Douglas rejects the idea that the advertising model could confuse readers into thinking the content they are reading is not ad funded editorial.

She adds: “I don’t ever want to do advertorial, we are never going to con the reader: it’s editorial, not an advert. I want to put clients in the context of the zeitgeist…[clients are] not paying for click through, but signing up to a contract [to appear in] an average of two to three stories that are contextually relevant to their business.

“It’s like we are taking on the role of the ad agency, PR agency or marketing agency. Ad blindness is real and we know [traditional display ads] do not work. There has to be a new world order, we need to retune the [digital publishing] revenue model.

“We know people are inquisitive and they love stories more than they love anything else. What we are offering [advertisers] is contextualisation within those stories and that contextualisation has never happened before - advertising has been two-dimensional.”

It is hoped within months The People website will be attracting “millions of uniques” and Douglas looks to the success of another Trinity Mirror digital project - the website Us vs Th3m - as testament to potential of the project.

She added: “The launch of Us Vs Th3m could [also have been] seen as a risk, not many people even knew it was Trinity Mirror. Now it has 3 million uniques with little spend behind it. That shows the power of good content if it is focused and targeted.”

The Mirror Group Digital, where the current Sunday People digital presence sits, attracted 1.5 million average daily unique visitors in September, down 13 per cent month on month, according to the latest ABC figures.

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