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It’s musical chairs in the newspaper market

It’s recently been announced that Paul Dacre, the controversial editor of the Daily Mail for the last 26 years, is stepping down in November, while the current editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Greig, has been announced as his successor. Despite the Mail on Sunday being seen as the sister paper to the Daily, Greig’s editorship over the last 6 years has seen a much less contentious editorial stance and, unlike Dacre, is pro Europe.

Over recent months we have seen a number of changes in the newspaper market with consolidation being the key factor. The Daily Mail and Metro sales operations have merged, to form the originally titled Mail Metro Media and Trinity Mirror and the Express papers have just been given the go-ahead to merge under the new company banner of Reach. What both these changes have in common is the need to secure the long-term future for the titles as they look to combat the decline in ad revenue.

Both the Daily Mail and Daily Express have been synonymous with publishing rather extreme headlines and are often held up as the mirror to what ‘middle England’ thinks. But is this necessarily the case, or are they just stoking the fears of an older more settled group of readers? As we’ve seen recently with the rise in populism, its quite easy to rile people up, whether it’s Brexit, immigration or Trumpism, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect the underlying beliefs of these groups.

But it’s the Mail that poses the more interesting story, as the difference in editorial style is more readily noticeable. But, if the readers really did want a more hard-line stance, we might expect to see a difference in the circulations, or readerships, of the two papers as the Daily streaks ahead of the Sunday.

However, as we can see, they have tracked fairly closely to each other. But, perhaps it’s because there is a totally different reader for each paper, with little if any crossover.

TGI readership analysis shows that actually over half the readers of the Mail on Sunday also read the Daily Mail and vice versa. So, this data would indicate the majority of readers aren’t that worried about the specific editorial stance of the titles.

So, will Geordie Greig’s less hard-line stance on the news look to soften some of the more outrageous headlines we’ve come to expect from the Daily Mail? Or will the ownership of the Express titles by the much more left-wing Mirror knock some of the sharp edges off Desmond’s notorious anti-European views? Apparently, it is said that Lady Rothermere, has been embarrassed by Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail in recent years and has been lobbying for Greig to get the job.

If both titles do move their editorial approaches, the biggest question for advertisers is how will this affect sales? Is there going to be a mass exodus of readers from the titles, will there be a short-term wobble and things settle down, or will there be in fact very little change? Also, if these titles do stop with the dramatic headlines, will they manage to get themselves off the radar as far as groups such as ‘Stop Funding Hate’ are concerned?

All Response Media viewpoint

Whatever the respective groups do with their editorial is less important than how it will affect campaign performance. Our analysis of the market shows there has been a steady growth in the mass-market readership for both titles, while at the same time their 55+ audience has grown. This may be a reflection of their editorial, but it’s more likely a response to the older generations still being very attached to a printed product. For clients that are looking for a more mass-market audience, this is no bad thing, potentially opening up titles that previously hadn’t worked.

Whatever route the papers take, as they say, the proof will be in the pudding. But I’m sure everyone at Reach will be watching carefully to see just how far the Daily Mail version of ‘middle England’ will let their papers change.