Keith Gladdis is a former executive news editor at the Daily Mail. He is currently director at MHP Communications and wrote the following article, reproduced with permission, to accompany the firm’s Young Journalist Awards 2017.
So how has a newspaper like the Daily Mail survived in a digital age when its editor refuses to even have a computer on his desk?
Despite being the most powerful man on Fleet Street Paul Dacre still edits with a pencil and demands emails are printed out and delivered to his office by hand.
And yet the Daily Mail is considered best-placed newspaper to survive in a world of 24-hour news and social media thanks to the incredible success of Mail Online.
The website has more than 15m online browsers every day and crucially millions of users are now reading it on their mobile phones.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Mail Online’s growth is its international appeal, it is often claimed to be the most visited English-language newspaper website in the world.
This year Mail Online is expected to generate £100m in advertising revenues, up 19 per cent on the previous year (although it is not yet in profit). It means the growth in online advertising is starting to make up for the decline in print.
It wasn’t always as rosy as this. Back in 2006 the Daily Mail’s online offering was a disaster, a mere afterthought to the newspaper.
Then a bold – and very expensive – decision was made to separate it from the newspaper.
The plan was to allow the website to grow without compromising the quality or core appeal of the newspaper.
Other editors pooled resources asking reporters to file stories for the website and then write different versions for the print edition. The quality of journalism inevitably suffered in both.
Another brave decision was to put a heavyweight editor in charge of online. Martin Clarke is a man who is every bit as driven and focused as Paul Dacre – and a potential rival.
Clarke had the confidence to drive Mail Online into becoming a very different product to the newspaper, now less than a quarter of its content comes from the pages of the print edition.
Controversial Mail Online columnists Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan drive traffic to the website but will never appear in the Daily Mail newspaper.
Mail Online’s legendary “sidebar of shame” is hugely popular with the online audience but it is home to celebrities largely unknown to the readers – and many of the reporters – at the Daily Mail.
Inevitably there is rivalry between reporters from the paper and the website but it generates an energy and competition that improves both products and pleases the respective editors.
Paul Dacre’s triumph was in recognising the growth of the online product should not come at the expense of the newspaper. His focus and that of his reporters, feature writers and commentators is on the Daily Mail alone.
That means at least 1.5m people pay 65p to buy a copy of the Daily Mail each day despite an alternative version of the news being available free of charge online.