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Mirror Group launches free Net service

ic24 to bring Web to honest Yeomen of Britain. Or something like that

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UK tabloid publisher Mirror Group today launched its promised free Internet access service. Dubbed ic24, the scheme was announced earlier this month to spoil the launch of a similar service by the Group's arch-rival, News Corp.'s tabloid, The Sun (see UK tabloid papers launch Web access for the masses). ic24 centres on a news-oriented portal site and offers an online betting service and links to BOL (Books Online), the e-commerce company that hopes to compete with Amazon.com. Interestingly, BOL's advertising highlights its Britishness -- ironic, given it is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann. The connection between the companies is also surprising given The Mirror's apparent fondness for anti-German headlines during international soccer tournaments. This could explain why BOL today announced that it "has teamed up with News International's new ISP, CurrantBun.com, to offer CurrantBun customers limited period discounts of up to 70 per cent off special titles", part of an "exclusive long-term relationship" between the two companies. The Mirror Group, meanwhile, claimed 50,000 readers had pre-registered for its service, which runs off a CD-ROM and provides news, sport and TV listings. Mirror Group CEO John Allwood claimed the launch of ic24 builds upon the Group's Mirror and Independent newspaper-based Web sites combine to form "the fifth most popular Internet destination in the UK", with 22 million page views per month. However, a swift check of the Audit Bureau of Circulation's Web site revealed the complete absence of Mirror Group sites from its official Top Ten UK sites listing, so you'll just have to take the Group's word for it, apparently. The Mirror Group's move follows The Sun's launch of its free Net access service and accompanying Web site Currantbun, Mockney rhyming slang for the paper's name, earlier this month. ®

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