It’s been an eventful few weeks at DMGT, home of the Daily Mail, the UK’s most successful newspaper. In less than two months, the listed company – whose founding family is currently bidding to take private – has lost three of its best-known executives in unexpected moves which begin to illuminate the strategy.
But, first, soak up the atmosphere as Kevin Beatty, the long-serving CEO of the core news group DMG Media announces his retirement, and is replaced by the Mail Online COO Rich Caccappolo. Geordie Greig, editor of the Daily Mail flagship, leaves as Ted Verity, his counterpart at the Mail on Sunday, is made editor of both Mail newspapers. Paul Dacre – the longtime Daily Mail editor whose retirement had been expected to lead to his appointment as chair of media industry regulator Ofcom – instead returned to become editor-in-chief of DMGT. Less than 10 days later, Martin Clarke – winning longtime publisher of Mail Online – announced he was leaving, with what sounded like 12 months gardening leave.
Caccappolo and Dacre are now in charge of the Mail print and digital news brands.
Here’s my take on what the changes mean to the future of DMGT when (as chair Lord Rothermere hopes) the company de-lists from the London Stock Exchange in the next few weeks:
Daily Mail: Ted Verity’s appointment as editor of both Mail newspapers signals a long-overdue merger of the two editorial teams. With some 600 journalists currently on the two papers, it seems possible that up to 150 jobs (and £8m annually) may eventually be saved. It will substantially strengthen the flagship news brand at a time of continuing falls in circulation and advertising and – now – rising costs of paper.
Mail Online: What is sometimes described as the world’s largest newspaper web site is much more than that. It has out-fought the heavily-funded BuzzFeed to become not only more valuable but also DMGT’s fastest-growing and most profitable brand. Its £164m of revenue in 2020-21 was an increase of 14% in the year and 6x since 2012. It accounted for 19% of all DMGT revenues last year and 26% of its consumer media. More strikingly, it is believed to have generated at least £40m of EBITDA, almost two-thirds of the whole company’s profit – just five years after making its first surplus. This is a singular, global triumph – not least for Rothermere who stuck with it during 13 years of unending losses and wistful forecasts. The punchy Martin Clarke, ultimately, made it all work having mastered clickbait before most people had even heard of it. But the growth seems certain to continue. The Daily Mail’s increasingly separate online sister – which now has almost 15m unique global daily viewers – will account for a growing share of DMGT in the medium-term. Given the strong digital advertising growth, Mail Online profit may reach £50m in 2022. But that’s only part of the mission for Dacre and Caccappolo…
Mail+ : This ad-free subscription app has the full content from the Mail newspapers, and exclusive video content including TV-like interviews, programmes and chat shows. It is believed to have some 90,000 subscribers at £9.99 per month. It is still just scratching at the surface. In so many ways, this is the Daily Mail group pushing ahead of the world’s pack of struggling tabloids and finding a way to build digital advertising (with Mail Online) and premium-priced subscriptions (with Mail+). It may also be set for video and audio streaming channels. But Mail+ needs more exclusive content and we might expect the 150 or so journalists eventually freed-up by the Daily Mail/ Mail on Sunday ‘merger’ to be drafted onto what may become DMGT’s most promising project.
This week, DMGT announced the creation of Harmsworth Media to publish its i tabloid (“Britain’s youngest and fastest growing national newspaper”, with 8.7m readers online and in print) and also New Scientist, whose high-rated CEO Nina Wright will lead the new group. It is now expected to seek acquisitions including magazines.
For all the downside of the lossmaking Metro free tabloid and the slowly recovering trade shows, these may become expansive times for DMGT, especially in the consumer media it is now primarily targeting. It is easy to understand why some investors are reluctant to accept what they see as a low offer from Lord Rothermere’s family trust. But he’s won the votes and the future can now begin.