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30 Aug 2013

Is the Mail’s new revenue stream the start of an online news revolution?

Posted on August 30, 2013 by

For many (like me) Mail Online is somewhat of a guilty pleasure that you indulge in on a lunch break or after work, to keep up to date on the latest celebrity ‘news’. Despite the grammatical and spelling errors – and sometimes just poor English – you take pleasure in reading controversial headlines positioned on the “side bar of shame.” “Miley Cyrus displays her breasts in mesh…” and “Carol McGiffin criticises Sophie Anderton and calls Charlotte Crosby a dirty s**g” are some of today’s finest.

However, recently the news site has expanded its offering by adding a ‘Femail Fashion Finder’ feature which allows readers to buy the clothes they see celebrities wearing – or a cheaper version if it’s out of your price range.

For me, this tool is better than using fashion websites like ASOS and Boohoo.com as you can buy the exact same styles worn by the icons – can you sense my excitement?!

Why is Mail Online adding this feature? Is it because they want us to dress like celebrities? No, it’s because they don’t want to go down the same path as other news sites like The Sun and The Times which have added paywalls.

Paywalls are instantly annoying, you can’t even get onto The Sun’s website without having to subscribe. And why would we subscribe when we can get content elsewhere for free?

With already eight million browsers per day, Fashion Finder is a way for Mail Online to build revenue, whilst providing the site with extra added value.

Daily Telegraph and Harper’s Bazaar are among the list of sites jumping on the bandwagon with affiliate link technology. Telegraph.co.uk offers a “buy-love-share” option on the favourite picks of its expert writers on the I-Spied fashion page.

Where has the monetising process derived from? Whilst the Daily Mail’s print readership is struggling, the website is one of the most popular online news outlets across the world. But even though website traffic numbers are increasing revenue through advertising, there’s even more to be done through content. This new feature has provided Mail Online with a sure way of making money fast, as fashion PRs across the UK are itching to tap into its success. It also adds value to readers, making it more than just a news website.

The fashion-focused trend is driven by likes of Grazia which was the first to set up its own shopping app. Also, websites of fashion retailers are now becoming more news-focused with net-a-porter starting to increase its use of written content.

Whilst this seems to be a relatively new process, it is likely that it will change the whole of online news media. We are no longer going to be turning to news websites to read hard-hitting stories, we’ll be busy looking at where we can buy the latest outfit worn by Kim Kardashian.

Also please note, on some articles where a large image is used, if you hover over it a large box appears with information about the styles worn in the photo. But whilst having boxes in the middle of the news story is irritating, it’s not as irritating as paywalls in their own right. And you can guarantee paywall sites will also adopt these changes, adding a double barrier.

From a PR perspective, Fashion Finder may be currently more relevant to those working with fashion brands, but soon enough, as it evolves it will be a place PRs working across the industry want their clients to be. From the latest gadgets, to retailers and tourism companies, I can see it developing into a site for the must-have items and places to visit.

An Aberfield office poll revealed that we are generally in favour of the changes, the only real criticism is that it generally just picks up on styles worn by female celebrities, so has little purpose for men. Given the audience ratio is 54 : 46 male to female readership, it’s certainly missing a trick. The next step for the Mail could be to add similar features to other sections, including sport – there’s got to be some investments to be made there. I’m thinking football boots worn by Steven Gerrard or a cricket bat used by Alistair Cook.

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