Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mirror, Mirror on the net

I don’t buy the Mirror often. I kind of had my fill of the modern day Mirror when researching an essay on the decline of what was once a decent, campaigning paper and was by then a paper run by Piers Morgan.

And their coverage of Scottish football has been squeezed to non existent in the last decade. In their favour they do have Oliver Holt. Not only a fine journalist but also the son of Emily Bishop from Coronation Street. Surely the finest claim to fame of any working sports hack.

So if nothing else the new Mirror Football website offered the chance to see if Oliver would ever again break his self imposed silence on being the son of a soap legend.

But the Mirror promised big things. In fact so heavily did they trail the opening of their football archive online that I actually got the impression it would form a much larger part of the site than it seems to at the moment.

The launch is a critical move by the Mirror. They’ve bucked media trends by actually taking on staff and heavily promoted a site that has been painstakingly developed. With a World Cup on the horizon – and England all but guaranteed to feature in South Africa – the football website was the first of their big moves aimed at redefining their online presence. But has it worked?

You can clearly see the development that’s gone into it and the fascinating resources that the Mirror has available. But you might not be able to navigate to them very easily. When I logged on on Tuesday there was actually an article posted telling people how to use the site. I think the internet’s reached the stage where most users are beyond needing someone to hold their hand round a site. But the fear at the Mirror was obviously that people have been struggling.

And that’s entirely down to poor design. The homepage looks like a web designer has simply got his Mac to be sick on it. It’s like the months of development have been spent coming up with ideas and then deciding to use every single one from day one. On the homepage. It’s too much. I’m also confused by the lack of coherence between the design of the football site and the Mirror’s other launch the 3AM site. If the Mirror brand is the selling point then you would expect the sites to be have a lot more in common than they do.

The content is actually fine. The sheer number of posts seems to prove that the Mirror is taking this seriously rather just producing some half arsed extension to the paper (see Scotsman, Herald etc). The advertising’s not hugely intrusive and, with patience, you can find everything you would need.

But that jam-packed home page needs work. This is a crowded market. At the moment the Mirror seems committed to the football site. But in this climate how long will that last? In my opinion a fairly basic design cock up has prevented Mirror Football from hitting the ground running. And hitting the ground running is exactly what it had to do.

So pass marks but only just.

And Oliver’s still not letting on about what Norris is like in real life….