Paul Dacre: a complex legacyMartin Tripp 7th June 2018
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 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.
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
Photo from Sky News.
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.