If Chris Evans had his way, apparently, the Daily Star would be
turned into a daily newsprint version of a lads’ magazine. Oh, right -
as opposed to being a cross between Vogue and The New Yorker. Which, as
we all know, is what the paper really aspires to.
Not that Evans will get the chance to do anything to the Daily Star.
Express Newspapers spent much of last week denying rumours that Evans’
company, Ginger Media, was about to buy or take control of the
Talks, if indeed there were ever any serious talks, have come to
But the speculation was fun while it lasted. And at least it had some
merit - serving, as it did, to reignite debate about the newspaper’s
The silliest thing about the entire episode, though, was the lads
business - reported breathlessly in some quarters and regarded by some
commentators as a blinding stroke of genius on Evans’ part.
Not only is the Daily Star the closest thing the newspaper market has to
a lads’ title, but every tweak it has attempted to make in the past ten
years has been a variation on a laddish theme. The paper’s biggest
mistake - its brief alliance with David Sullivan’s ultra sleazy Sport
operation - was all about going too far in that direction.
And perhaps its second biggest mistake was a relaunch last year that
tried to retake the laddish high ground by (supposedly) making the paper
more upmarket and more attractive to young women. Its readership remains
resolutely downmarket and northern and its circulation - now stabilised
at more than 530,000 - is puny compared with its mass-market rivals, The
Sun and The Mirror.
So was (or is) Evans the last hope for the Daily Star? He could have
upped its profile and made it fashionable. He realises that the young
men’s market is not just about soft drugs, soft porn, choreographed
violence and the tribal rituals of sport. Evans, more than anyone,
realises that it has a tone of voice that is actually quite
sophisticated and an in-joke sense of humour that has surprising
Can the Express group now hope to stagger on as before? On the plus
side, there are those who argue that the Daily Star is so naff that it’s
Its headlines regularly win The Big Breakfast’s much-sought-after pun of
the week competition. The circulation may be small but it has an almost
cult-like following. That has to be of some value to advertisers.
The Express group now says it’s ready to recommit to the title. Colin
Gottlieb, the managing partner of Manning Gottlieb Media, believes Evans
could do more for the paper in his sleep than a boardroom of Express
directors has ever been able to achieve. But that’s not saying very
much. He states: ’United News and Media spectacularly fails to invest in
the editorial side of its newspapers.
The Sunday Express, for instance, with its 25 full-time journalists, is
trying to compete with The Mail on Sunday, with its 200. That’s not
really competing at all, is it?
’It says a lot about the company and its commitment to its stable of
newspapers. The United News and Media chairman, Lord Hollick, clearly
believes the future is all about television, not newspapers. There was
and is an obvious market in the youth area.
The problem is that there’s no-one really pushing it and making sure
they do it right. It would be hugely exciting for advertisers if they
So, could this be the kick in the pants that the Express group
Tim McCloskey, the deputy managing director of BMP Optimum, is slightly
sceptical. He points out that the Daily Star has always been a problem
child. After all, it was only launched - back in the 70s - to soak up
excess Express print capacity in Manchester. He suggests it has always
lacked a clear raison d’etre and is a triumph of marketing rationale
over editorial vision. And proprietors have never taken it sufficiently
McCloskey notes there are eight million men under the age of 35 in the
UK and only half of them read a newspaper. The Daily Star could do more
to tap into that market. It needs stronger sports coverage and must
upgrade its male interest features on music, movies, motoring and
models. It should also add more intelligent - but not necessarily
high-brow - news coverage.
McCloskey says: ’It is a case of sharpening up rather than dumbing down.
Scantily clad girls are great but it should be more Cameron Diaz than
the Dagenham Dorises who currently adorn every other page.’
Like many in the advertising business, McCloskey believes that Evans
would make an ideal proprietor and still hopes it can happen. Tim
Kirkman, the head of press at Carat, points out that the Daily Star is
not exactly at death’s door: ’It delivers good, solid, cheap frequency
and good value. It does well because of its sales team, which works
harder than any other. But at the end of the day, it is dramatically
overshadowed by The Sun and The Mirror in the popular arena. The Daily
Star needs a massive injection of funds and, equally, it needs someone
to bring it back to the attention of the populace. One of the reasons
Ginger does so well is its brilliance at public relations. The Daily
Star needs energy and dynamism. If not Evans, then who?’
But Laura James, the press director of New PHD, says it’s not so simple:
’Initially, it would appear there’s some synergy between the young,
blokey readership of the Daily Star and the audience of Evans’ various
broadcast vehicles - so, in theory, it could work. Certainly in the
short term, the paper would benefit from more investment, free promotion
and the resulting association with TV programmes.
’But would the Daily Star enhance Ginger Productions? The title’s
circulation has declined 15 per cent in the past two years and continues
Yes, it could provide a controlled mouthpiece but it has a smaller
audience than either TFI Friday or the Virgin breakfast show. And he
would not be dealing with a blank canvas. It has brand perception
problems and last year’s attempt to broaden its appeal by partially
de-nippling has failed to stem the decline. It could take a considerable
amount of expertise and investment to turn it around.’