Why the days of Mail Online could well be numbered
A view from Arif Durrani

Why the days of Mail Online could well be numbered

At the start of the year, I was advised by a senior press leader to "keep my eyes on Northcliffe House" - words that have served me well in 2014.

Of course, with transition heavily in the air, it didn’t take an oracle to forecast major disruption in a building housing no fewer than six major news brands (Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, London Evening Standard and Metro).

The sprawling building on Kensington High Street has provided the backdrop to a raft of people moves, new apps, extended print runs and even a speculative foray into local TV (London Live) this year.

From DMG Media’s perspective, the ongoing presence of Boston Consulting Group has made a tense situation all the more fractious. It has been nearly a year since the consultancy firm entered the building.

It spent the early days with Metro. Out went the managing director, Linda Grant, and group leader of client sales, Matt Teeman, among others.

However, since Steve Auckland absconded to neighbour ESI Media this summer, the group has struggled to recruit a new managing director for Metro. The decision to hand control of its website to the Mail Online’s publisher, Martin Clarke, is cited as a major stumbling block.

'One of those 'deep dives' highlighted the benefits of the site being better aligned to its newspaper heritage'

Running a free newspaper without a website does not feel like much of  a long-term proposition, even for one with a reach of 1.35 million. Yet prospective candidates were told the situation is irreversible.

Fortunately, an interim internal candidate, Charlie Cox, has shown that he is more than capable of handling the gig full-time.

With all eyes on digital, Mail Online’s global network of 184 million monthly unique browsers, and video views in excess of 50 million, ensure Clarke’s power base continues to grow. The site is on track to boost ad revenues by 50 per cent this year to £60 million. In contrast, print revenues from the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday fell 5 per cent to £172 million in the 11 months to September.

Clarke’s latest victory sees him swiping office space for his ever-expanding team from The Mail on Sunday, including the corner office of the editor, Geordie Greig. And yet, Mail Online’s days could be numbered.

According to sources, the decision has been made to rebrand Mail Online as DailyMail.com in the US. Apparently, one of those "deep dives" into the market clearly highlighted the benefits of the site being better aligned to its 118-year-old newspaper heritage.

No decision has been made on whether to rebrand the UK site yet, and Clarke is likely to fight his corner. Unless, of course, he has his eyes on the bigger prize of editor-in-chief at a newly streamlined Daily Mail operation?