Paul Dacre: a complex legacy

Those of you who are regular readers of our blogs may well have picked up that we are exactly the kind of hand-wringing, politically-correct, liberal-minded multiculturalists that the Daily Mail despises.

So long, and thanks for all the Brexit

So the decision of Paul Dacre to step down as Editor of the Daily Mail might be seen as a cause for celebration to people like us. Certainly, anything that tones down the constant divisive tub-thumping would be welcome: the country is as divided as it has ever been, and needs less hateful rhetoric.

But you might also know that we constantly bang on about the importance of great content. Too many newspaper groups – particularly in local media – have seen cutting back on journalists as a short cut to profit. It is not: it is a short cut to the death of the editorial proposition. And since all you have as a newspaper is an editorial proposition, that is pretty dumb.

What do we mean by great content? Well, as we wrote about a few months ago, great content comes from understanding the needs of your community, and delivering it to them in the format they want. And delivering it consistently, in a way that means people feel they are missing out if they don’t get it.

Whether this is Game of Thrones, Love Island, Slimming World, or commodity prices, it is about making your content a must-have part of someone’s personal or professional lives.

Dacre pulled this trick off in spades. While he had a rocky start to his time as Editor – alienating some readers and lots of staff – he has performed strongly in the circulation stakes. Over his tenure, circulation has dropped just under 20%, the best-performing national daily tabloid. In the same period, the Express has dropped 76% of its sales, The Sun 57%, and the Mirror nearly 80%. Only the Times has increased sales during that period (see table below). Although a 200,000 drop in circulation since the Brexit referendum is sharp by its own standards, suggesting an erosion in relevance, Dacre has maintained the Mail’s central importance to the national dialogue, for better or worse.

In addition, he has consistently defended the central role his journalists play in creating a highly successful commercial product. It is no surprise that he is to be retained as Editor-in-Chief: though, rather as Alex Ferguson’s long shadow from the stands is said to have overwhelmed David Moyes in his tenure as Manchester United’s manager, it will be a brave and necessarily resilient editor who steps into these shoes.


Newspaper print performance, 1992 to date







Jan 2003


Jan 2008


Jan 2013


Jan 2018




The Times 386,258 821,000 671,340 633,718 399,339 440,558 +14%
The Sun 3,570,562 3,877,097 3,578,506 3,209,766 2,409,811 1,545,594 -57%
The Independent 389,523 288,182 221,926 250,641 76,802 N/A -100%
The Guardian 429,062 428,010 409,568 378,394 204,440 152,714 -64%
The Telegraph 1,038,138 1,129,777 946,697 890,086 555,817 385,346 -63%
Financial Times 290,204 326,516 431,875 452,448 275,375 189,579 -35%
Daily Star 805,793 729,991 835,343 722,969 535,957 391,998 -51%
Daily Record 755,026 703,090 520,540 393,788 251,535 134,087 -83%
Daily Mirror 2,900,000 2,442,078 2,071,059 1,512,599 1,058,488 583,192 -80%
Daily Mail 1,675,453 2,344,183 2,518,544 2,313,908 1,863,151 1,343,142 -20%
Daily Express 1,524,786 1,241,336 983,391 752,699 529,648 364,721 -77%

1992 and 1997 figures represent averages across the year. Later figures reflect the Jan ABCs. Figures from Audit Bureau of Circulation, via Wikipedia.

Photo from Sky News.


Martin Tripp

[email protected]

Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.