Johnston Press plc, the UK's fourth largest regional newspaper publisher, announces a strategic investment of £3.5 million for an approximate 17.5% stake in Mirago plc (www.mirago.co.uk) which operates a UK Centric Internet search service.
Last month (June), Mirago's central query servers rendered just over 10 million search results pages through a mixture of in-house, branded and third party sites. The robot and indexing software at the heart of the service is based entirely on technology developed and owned by Mirago plc.
Mirago's specific aim is to present information on the Internet to UK users in a logical fashion, without the clutter of non-relevant international results. A joint project with Johnston Press to provide regional Internet search services for the UK, brings this objective even closer.
Tim Bowdler, Chief Executive of Johnston Press commented "...this link with Mirago is an ideal partnership. They have the technology; we have the regional infrastructure. Our objective is to allow users to search the Internet from the perspective of where they live. The Mirago index supports a classification system which allows websites to be grouped by geographic location or organisation type. Search results can then be ordered based upon the location of the person using the search engine. A simple search suddenly provides more useful results."
Johnston Press and Mirago will shortly be piloting the service and it is anticipated that it will start rolling out during the third quarter of this year. The Mirago indexing technology can also be used to group sites together in sectors where misleading information is a problem.
One example of this is Medisearch (www.medisearch.co.uk), a Mirago site which provides search results from 'authoritative' medical organisations uncluttered by the large number of 'miracle cure' sites which exist on the Internet. Similar services for the legal and financial communities will also be launched shortly. These services will also be available on all Johnston Press local websites.
Mirago robots currently index more than 10 million web pages and entirely refresh their index regularly. Rather than purely indexing UK based sites, Mirago also encompasses International sites which are of interest to residents of the British Isles in areas such as Entertainment, Media, Software, Medicine and General Reference. Mirago is therefore a 'UK Centric' search engine, which means that it indexes the Internet from a UK perspective.
Mirago commenced its life within Compsoft plc;, a software company which has been writing specialist database engines since 1979. At the heart of any database software is indexing technology, which stores and manipulates a variety of data types.
In 1996 Stephen Holmes, the current Chief Executive of Mirago plc, initiated a project to apply these techniques to develop high speed indexing engines for vast repositories of data, notably on the Internet. Trials of the search engine started late in 1998 and a full service commenced in 1999, culminating in the launch of Mirago plc as an independent company. The underlying technology and supporting systems are continuously being developed in accordance with the way Internet users search for information.
Johnston Press plc has over 50 localised websites serving all of its principal publishing areas, from Scotland to the south coast of England. Page impressions are now running at over 3 million per month and are expected to rise rapidly. Johnston's sites are all locally branded, building on the market strength of its local newspapers, and provide extensive content of direct relevance to the local communities they serve.
Under the arrangements, Johnston Press has nominated Nicholas Rudd-Jones as a director of Mirago. Nicholas joined Johnston Press recently as Group Managing Director - Publishing.
Johnston Press plc - 0131 225 3361
Tim Bowdler/Nicholas Rudd-Jones
Mirago plc - 01420 543 918 Stephen Holmes
Buchanan Communications - 020 7466 5000
Richard Oldworth/Richard Darby