FORUM: Can the Daily Star shake off its gutter press roots? - What now for the Daily Star? An injection of cash, ideas and sheer energy from Chris Evans was a nice idea - but apparently it’s just not going to happen. Was Evans right about its unta

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.

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

to fall.

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.’


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