Ian Burrell: A broken Mirror, or a reflection of the future of newspapers?

Media Studies

Where's the future of the newspaper business? In seeking an answer to this question, most experts would hardly rush to cite Trinity Mirror as an example, except perhaps as a lesson in what not to do.

The group's chief executive Sly Bailey is leaving – forced out by shareholders for poor performance – and the editors of both the flagship Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror were summarily fired last week. The circulation of the Daily Mirror, once in excess of five million copies a day, is struggling to stay above one million.

Yet, in spite of everything, at Trinity's headquarters in the Canada Square tower at London's Canary Wharf, there is a surprising optimism that the organisation can be a model for the industry.

The source of this hope is Chris Ellis, Trinity Mirror's managing director for digital, whose 22nd-floor office has inspiring views across east London to the Olympic stadium and Anish Kapoor's futuristic Orbit sculpture.

Ellis talks unashamedly of his "lofty ambition", although many digital specialists will think he has his head in the clouds, given the spectacular stalling of the Mirror's relaunched website this year, when it temporarily lost 30 per cent of its traffic.

He's not a newspaperman. But he has tasted the power of digital technology as chief operating officer of MySpace in Europe during that extraordinary period in the mid-to-late Noughties when the site briefly ruled the world, before crashing around Rupert Murdoch's ears.

"I think it was the forerunner of social media as we see it today," says Ellis. "What it stood for was groundbreaking and turned out to be fulfilled, just not by MySpace."

Trinity Mirror last week announced a seven-day publishing operation, brutally sacking Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace and Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver, who opposed the change. While the personable Lloyd Embley, former editor of The People, will oversee the joint newsroom, it falls to Ellis to get the most from the website, introducing changes in design and technology.

A year into the job, Ellis claims not to be distracted by the Mirror's great print rival. "I haven't spent any time thinking about The Sun since I have been here," he says. "I am worrying about what MSN have got on their home page or Yahoo News or AOL. That's my competitive set." This radical thinking extends to launching products with little connection to Mirror journalism. "Our plans go beyond traditional news – our ambition is much larger than that."

In March he rolled out Happli, a "daily deals" business that has built a 100,000-subscriber base for offers from Mirror advertisers. This is a fresh perspective – and not one that Wallace and Weaver are likely to have had. "We have a number of digital properties that have really come out of the newspapers. If you were starting from scratch you might go about it a different way and you need to create space to ask those questions."

It's a moot point whether Trinity Mirror can afford a strategy like this. Perhaps more than any British media business this PLC has had to justify its investments to shareholders and not look far beyond its quarterly results. It still makes money – but profits fell by 40 per cent to £74m last year. New chairman David Grigson will be looking for a change of direction and Ellis says he has been granted flexibility. "We are moving nimbly and I have the autonomy to do this," he says. "I want us to be a big digital innovator."

Crucial will be the launch of the Mirror's app for iPad in July. Ellis gives a demonstration. "If you look at the marketplace you see products that go from very straightforward PDFs through to almost a weblike experience. What I think people want is something in the middle that looks and feels like a newspaper but with the benefits of interactivity."

With Apple expected to launch a smaller and cheaper iPad before Christmas, this app could soon have a substantial new market of traditional red-top readers.

"A lot of these will be sitting under Christmas trees and it will move to being a mass market product," says Ellis. "There are no silver bullets in this world but this is a large opportunity for us."

Enough bullets have been flying at the Mirror lately, it could do with a silver one.


Love him or loathe him, 'Dirty' Desmond is loyal to his editors

The Desmond problem" was an expression used by Jeremy Hunt in his Leveson evidence. He was referring to Richard Desmond's refusal to engage with a press regulator, but there is a wider loathing of the Northern & Shell owner which extends throughout the media sector.

He's seen as a malign influence on our culture, dragging Channel 5 into the gutter and reducing the Daily Express to a journalistic husk. Yet the hard-to-swallow reality is that while many media businesses have no prospect of making money, Northern & Shell turned a £40m profit in 2011, despite blowing £28.5m on the contentious new HealthLottery.

And Desmond has a reputation for staying loyal to his national newspaper editors, unlike Trinity Mirror.

Opening up the Radio 4 'playground' for artists

Gwyneth Williams, the controller of Radio 4, wants to turn her station into a "playground" for artists and has been privately talking to sculptor Antony Gormley, poets Ruth Padel and Andrew Motion, writer Marina Warner and musician Brian Eno, to offer them time in the schedule.

"I want to open up the airwaves a bit for artists to see what comes in," she tells me. "With low economic growth, people need nourishment. Let's hear the heart beat a little bit louder!"

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering