The Grey Cardigan 10.03.06

THERE’S MORE than a whiff of the fall of the Roman Empire about the Daily Mail Group at the moment.

No-one would dare suggest that Mr Dacre is fiddling while Derry Street burns, or that Lord Rothermere has developed an unseemly attachment to his horse, but there are signs of confused thinking and the lack of a clear strategy.

We have an abundance of Metros and Lites, without any sign that free readers are converting, as hoped, to paid-for titles. Another set of disastrous ABC figures signals that it’ll take more than second-rate podcasting by second-rate columnists to save the Northcliffe regionals (which they still might be selling anyway). That strange live magazine (the oops-let’s-not-be-too-laddish lads’ mag ) only carried eight pages of ads last week in a 68-page book, and then there’s the bizarre re-launch of The Mail on Sunday’s You magazine.

I’ve always been confused by the Mail’s attitude to women.

It is, by all accounts, enormously successful with them; but it’s irredeemably beastly to them at the same time.

I came to the conclusion that they could get away with being horrible to women simply because women are horrible to each other.

So what’s the new You magazine pitch to this legion of female readers? Great features? Fantastic fashion coverage? Lots of stuff on make-up? Nah, as the page-one blurb gushed: "Feel the sumptuous NEW silk paper". Right, it’s paper quality we’re selling now, not the quality of the paper? Which genius came up with that one?

HERE AT the Evening Beast, a demoralised and defeated workforce goes through the motions.

When the first wave of job losses arrived, most department heads did the decent thing and nominated for redundancy the 30-year merchants — those who were one or two years off retirement and could happily go with a nice cheque as a reward for their long service.

Unfortunately the bean counters got wise to this expensive, if humane, strategy. Soon the order came to spread the load across the age groups to reduce redundancy costs. The eventual result of that policy was the dismissal last week of a 19-year-old trainee reporter who had joined us straight from school as part of an enlightened scheme to recruit local kids to their local paper, rather than just relying on the distant, middle-class cannon fodder that emerged from the colleges.

Is there not something distasteful about making a trainee journalist redundant? When they join us, on pitiful wages, they sell their souls to the devil. They agree to work for peanuts; we agree to equip them with the skills that will enable them to secure a better-paid job in PR as soon as they’ve collected their certificate. Everyone’s happy.

Our editor, The Boy Wonder, the gutless management cipher who administered the axe, clearly hasn’t thought this one through. In binning a local girl with local connections in betrayal of an unspoken agreement, he further undermines the Evening Beast’s connection with the community. Roll on the next ABC figures. Minus double digits beckon, I fear.

STILL, IT’S not as if it’s just we journos who are feeling the pain.

According to the managing director’s secretary (what did I tell you — always look after the secretaries), the man at the helm has had an important memo from the group FD.

While spending millions on useless and uninformed consultants, and presiding over the disintegration of a once-proud newspaper group, this financial whiz-kid finds time to suggest to the MD that perhaps he shouldn’t use Optimum Unleaded fuel in his company car rather than the bog-standard version. He’s done a careful analysis and the extra six pence per litre simply isn’t justified. The mind boggles.

You can contact me, should you be minded, at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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