The criteria for medium of the year have always been outstanding
commercial and consumer success, innovation, staying ahead of the
competition and setting the agenda.
At first glance, the Daily Mail’s 1998 story was simply one of continued
success. But a closer look at the newspaper’s fortunes over the last 12
months reveals an outstanding performance against the backdrop of an
industry blighted by declining circulation.
The Daily Mail, which celebrated its 102nd birthday in 1998, also
celebrated its highest circulation for 32 years and managed to steer a
steady course through the changing political climate without losing its
traditional reader base. Whether you love or loathe its middle England
stance, the title’s consistent investment in editorial has succeeded in
broadening its appeal while maintaining its tough journalistic edge.
Despite the death earlier in the year of Associated’s owner, Lord
Rothermere, and the title’s editor-in-chief, Sir David English, the
Daily Mail lost neither its lustre nor direction under its editor, Paul
Dacre. Weak competition from The Express, the other mid-market title,
also helped it to bolt on new readers without compromising the paper’s
demographic profile. According to the National Readership Surveys (April
to September 1998), the Daily Mail has a higher AB readership than any
other national daily.
But perhaps the most significant event for the Daily Mail was its
triumph in September in overtaking The Mirror as Britain’s second
biggest selling daily national newspaper, a position it held until
November, when The Mirror nudged ahead by just over 12,000 copies. By
November, the Daily Mail’s circulation stood at 2,310,025. Whether the
Daily Mail will claw its way back to the number two position in 1999
remains to be seen, but year-on-year six-monthly circulation growth over
the past 12 months has consistently hit above 5 per cent and as much as
7 per cent, a feat in itself.
When it came to marketing tactics, the Daily Mail’s strategy left most
in its wake. The two costly Princess Diana part-works earlier in the
year sent its Saturday sales soaring over three million. The newspaper
also invested in an ambitious direct mail campaign aimed at almost
500,000 women earning more than pounds 30,000 a year. The Lucky Wallets
promotion, launched in September, added around 100,000 copies to daily
sales when it kicked off, according to the Daily Mail’s managing
director, Guy Zitter.
Two words - ’slick’ and ’professional’ - neatly sum up the Daily Mail’s
year, both commercially and editorially. The newspaper shows no signs of
letting up in a cut-throat, aggressive market which is struggling to
stop the erosion of sales.
Nipping at the Daily Mail’s heels in the race for medium of the year
accolade was BSkyB, the company which has driven the television market
for much of the last decade. Sky’s triumph in 1998 was defined by the
launch of digital television. Digital satellite TV has yet to change the
viewing habits of the nation, and probably won’t for years to come, but
that should not be allowed to undermine the very real achievement of
launching the UK’s first digital TV service and providing a platform for
a host of new channels. With Sky Digital, BSkyB has once again set the
Yet that didn’t distract Sky from launching one of the most audacious
initiatives of the year: a breathtaking and controversial bid for
Manchester United football club. The pounds 625 million offer is still
in the hands of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission but, as a
statement of intent, the bid is a clear example of Sky’s ambition.
Of the terrestrial stations, Channel 5 came good, ending the year with a
5 per cent share in all TV homes and increasingly providing advertisers
with a foil to ITV. Channel 4 marked its consistent quality with the
launch of FilmFour, which extends the enviable Channel 4 brand values
into the cable, satellite and digital TV arena.
The multi-channel old timer, Flextech, also deserves applause for the
fact that viewing figures for its portfolio of channels have nudged ever
upwards, the launch of new brands from its UKTV joint venture with the
BBC, and the professionalism of its sales team.
In the stagnant market of glossy women’s magazines, Emap Elan created
waves with the launch of Red, targeted at women over 30. Despite
entering a crowded sector, it managed to clinch sales of 190,136 in its
first ABC audit (January to June 1998), beating its target of 180,000 in
the first six months. There’s little doubt that the creation of Red has
led to a series of revamps in the market, helping rejuvenate a
TDI, which sells advertising on the London Underground and on buses
across the country, again led the field in the outdoor sector with a
sales story that has kept rivals on their toes for the past few years.
In a market that increasingly attracts innovative advertising, TDI
maximised the creative potential of its stock with the launch of
campaigns such as Yellow Pages on the Underground and Vodafone’s
illuminated bus sides.
1998 was a busy year for radio, but one player stood out. Classic FM has
gone through many changes in the past 12 months, not least the formation
of the new sales operation, Opus, by its parent group, GWR. The station
broke through the five million listeners barrier in the first quarter of
the year and went on to record year-on-year increases in each of the
subsequent Rajar quarters in hours, reach and share.
Recent winners: FHM (1997), Sky TV (1996), Daily Mail (1995), Classic FM
(1994), Channel 4 (1993).