‘Mail’ publisher goes ‘fluffy and huggable’ with Evoke.ie

Associated Newspapers Ireland launches new site with ad blitz and ‘big bag of cash’

Associated Newspapers Ireland is throwing its considerable weight behind Evoke.ie, a new website that focuses on showbiz, style, health, food, beauty and travel – but definitely no "hard" news.

Paul Henderson, managing director of Associated Newspapers Ireland, says the company decided to launch a new brand rather than build an Irish version of MailOnline because the UK version of MailOnline is already popular in Ireland, with 2.3 million unique monthly users logging onto its "sidebar of shame" and other delights.

“If we put Enda Kenny or Seánie Fitz in there, we’ll just kill the vibe,” he says.

Only Australia and the US have large enough markets to justify local versions, he adds. Evoke.ie will stick to being “nice and fluffy and huggable and loveable” and “will never have that strong fist that has won us fans in the daily market”, he explains.


The site, which went live last week, is filled with content produced by Irish Daily Mail and Irish Mail on Sunday journalists, with leading stories this week featuring Irish celebrities such as Nadine Coyle and Chris O'Dowd, as well as the gossip that acting husband-and-wife Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz plan to temporarily relocate to Dublin.

It also features video content shot in the “MailTV” studio it has constructed in its Ballsbridge offices.

The name Evoke.ie was the suggestion of Associated Newspapers Ireland's head of sales Karl Byrne, after management spent a period going through "about 50 names every day".

The site will be fed from existing resources. “A website is a big black hole and you have to feed the beast every day. There is no downtime. Everyone is working really hard,” says Henderson, who even spent a couple of days learning to code to understand the work that goes into running the site.

The publisher says he believes there is a gap in the market for a site that targets mostly Irish women, although he says the name Evoke.ie has the advantage of not alienating male readers.

He has no targets for either users or advertising sales. “In the modern world, spreadsheets tend to strangle entrepreneurial spirit,” he says, conceding the possibility that this relaxed approach might be “completely mad”.

But Henderson, who was previously director of sales for the Irish Daily Star and part of the launch team for TV3, is reassured by what he describes as overwhelmingly positive feedback from advertisers ahead of the site's formal launch this week.

“The reaction to this has been the single biggest reaction I have seen from the advertising community, and they can be cautious,” he says.

“We have a big bag of cash from people who want to be part of the party.”

Associated Newspapers Ireland already earns a "large seven-figure sum" from local advertising on the Mail Online site, while Henderson says the print Irish Daily Mail isn't going anywhere.

He points out that its circulation has been more or less flat over a five-year period that has seen daily newspaper sales drop precipitously. “Our biggest challenge is getting people to try it for the first time.”

To date, Associated Newspapers Ireland, which employs 141 people, has taken the “master brands” provided by the UK and built an Irish product around it, he notes. “This is the first thing we have done for ourselves, by ourselves.”

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics