Friends and enemies: The Daily Mail debate

Love it or loathe it with all your heart one thing is abundantly clear; more people are reading The Daily Mail than ever before, in one format or another. So why is the world’s most visited news website from the UK’s ‘paper of the year’ so popular?

It’s a difficult quandary, and we need to begin by defining the difference between The Daily Mail newspaper, which began in 1896 and is read by 4million or so Brits each day, and Mail Online, the website version which started up later and claimed nearly 100million hits in January 2012. The lines are drawn when it comes to content, which should be clear with one quick look at each outlet.

The Daily Mail is traditionally a mid-market title, not a tabloid proper, and finds focus on ‘hard news’ and current affairs. The web version shifts the emphasis towards celebrity or ‘pop news’, and so has a notably younger readership when compared with its elder brother. According to NRS figures the paper is mostly picked up by over 65’s, and hits roughly 16% of that population in the UK. In contrast just 4.4% of British 15-24 year olds do the same.

But data from Alexa, the internet ranking company , shows different demographics online, with 25-54 year olds accounting for the majority of people logging on to check out the latest stories. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of celebrity oriented websites out there, so why do people keep coming back to Mail Online?

The 116 year old newspaper boasts a loyal (though mature) readership, which results from its clear tone and editorial stance, and this is not to everyone’s liking. But after years working in the PR industry, and having dealt with The Daily Mail on a regular basis, I can tell you that when clients are favourably featured therein the public picks up the phone. In short, the print edition has an enviably influential editorial position; which is the bone of contention for many.

Some say it’s upstanding, and speaks for them, but to others The Daily Mail is guilty of scaremongering, and using shock tactics to promote a right wing stance. Columnists such as Jan Moir and Kelvin MacKenzie are notorious for their uncompromising opinion pieces, and then there’s the actual news content. Two clicks on the unofficial Daily Mail Headline Generator gave us ‘Could Facebook Make the Queen Obese?’ and ‘Will The Poles Ruin England?’.

These might be a little far fetched, but they are also amusing indictments of the paper’s no holds barred attitude towards sensationalising real issues via headlines. For further proof head to Mail Watch, where front pages from The Daily Mail are consistently posted in order to show the title’s contradictory lead stories.

But then there is no shortage of opinion and comment in favour of the paper, and those respectable circulation figures are no coincidence. Nor is the fact it boasts more female readers than male- the only UK national to do this. All of which results from well targeted content that speaks to people. As such the enduring nature of the print edition is down to subjectivity and reader preference, but the overwhelming success of Mail Online is, at least in part, due to an additional factor.

As online marketing magazine The Drum explained last month, the website’s exponential growth and marketplace dominance owes much to a dedicated team of SEO specialists who take articles, add in keywords to help attract internet traffic from search engines, and then post the stories live. If nothing else it’s proof, again, of why companies can benefit from a broad range of skills, even when the industry is considered a niche marketplace.

Like so many other successful concepts, to ignore this evidence when it comes to your own business interests would be unwise, if not potentially damaging to future opportunities. There’s no denying it makes sense, regardless of whether you agree with the Daily Mail or not, but before taking any steps to implement this we’d like to hear what you think, so why not use the comments form below to tell us your opinion on Britain’s most divisive of newspapers.

  • http://www.artisanmc.co.uk Manchester PR Rob

    I like the Julie Burchill quote about the Mail: Someone, somewhere is having fun, and its got to stop!!

    Back to your earlier poin the difference in stories between the online and hard copy Mail perhaps shows a practical marketing exercise in utilising its power to best effect commercially.

    Off the record my mum reads the Mail and won’t go near the Internet and has little interest in celebrity. The hard copy approach might just not have had the desired results online

    I of course have read the Mail when growing up for the sport and TV listings only