Thursday, June 23, 2005
Mirror Mirror II
The Mumbai Mirror has finally strated getting it right. Unlike the first few days when it came across as a pale shadow of Midday and a repeat of TOI (at least page 1 headlines), Mirror has finally found its own style -and voice.
From vague stories like 'Freehold bonanza' they've graduated to attention grabbing people pieces with kitschy and catchy headlines. Inside too, there's a better mix of things to read and some of the minor irritants have been removed.
So Mirror is now on my afternoon reading list while Afternoon is out. The paper had a certain old world charm while Busybee was alive - and if he still were I'd happily pay 3 bucks a day just to read his column. But not for the reprints of his old columns!
But sadly, just as Mirror is finding its feet, it's being jerked into a new direction. From a stand-alone paper it will now start going 'free with The Times of India'.
Why? Because DNA is launching on July 21. The idea being that with an extra paper coming home, anyone wanting to buy DNA is going to think twice... And yeah, the side benefit (they hope) is Midday will also get hit.
Mirror as strategy, not product
Mirror is to the TOI stable what Thums Up was to Coke. A tactical weapon. Except unlike Thums Up it is a new brand with no heritage or loyalty. And whatever loyal readers it does manage will soon start getting upset with the paper's fickle and ever changing nature.
Because this is just the first of Mirror's many avatars. Whatever DNA does - Mirror will 'mirror' it (yeah, it's aptly named).
The problem is ...
Free sampling over a prolonged period is never a good idea. You can sample once, or twice - giving it indefinitely devalues the paper. It makes it raddi.
It's been tried before. In the 90s, TOI's second morning daily The Independent went free with the Economic Times for almost a year. After that, it was offered at Rs 1 to the reader. And was rejected.
In its 6 years of existence The Independent changed as many colours (literally). It was launched to kill off Vijaypat Singhania's Indian Post (which it did), then to take on the Reliance backed Business and Political Observer (which was stillborn).
The Independent at various times was priced at Rs 2, Rs 4, free, Rs 1 and went not only pink but even had experimental pista green supplements... In the end, having outlived its use as a tactical weapon (with no competition left!) - it was quietly buried.
So perhaps the Boss is right. This tactical strategy does work... But what if your rival has really really deep pockets? And won't get scared off so easily??
There are interesting - and uncharted - times ahead!