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Dacre successor Geordie Greig faces digital and Brexit conundrums at the Daily Mail

Chatter about Paul Dacre’s retirement is nothing new in Derry Street, the Kensington headquarters of Daily Mail publisher DMGT.
Britain’s longest-serving and best-paid newspaper editor turned 65 in 2013 and has had bouts of time off on doctors’ orders after heart surgery. Dacre’s rivals and detractors inside and outside DMGT were repeatedly frustrated by his apparent determination to one day leave the newsroom feet first.
In recent weeks the the rumour mill spun into overdrive, however. Dacre’s loyal assistant was on the hunt for property in her native North East, according to canteen gossip. This was taken the surest sign yet that the feared, respected and disdained editor was about to take his bows.
So it proved. Yet Dacre’s decision to move upstairs to become chairman of DMGT’s consumer publishing division Associated Newspaper poses more questions than it answers for the Daily Mail.
His successor has now been named by Jonathan Harmsworth, Lord Rothermere, who owns 18pc of DMGT but all the voting rights under an unusual share structure that cost the company its premium stock market listing six years ago.
Geordie Greig, 57-year-old editor of the Mail on Sunday, social companion of Lord and Lady Rothermere, shareholder in the Evening Standard and bitter enemy of Dacre received the nod today.
Greig, an Old Etonian and Oxford graduate, worked as a local reporter and at the Daily Mail early in his career. In a stint at the Sunday Times he served as  a war reporter, crime reporter, fashion writer, New York correspondent and literary editor before becoming editor of the society magazine Tatler for a decade.
He was brought back to Derry Street as editor of the Evening Standard by Alexander Lebedev, the former KGB officer and oligarch who bought control of the London title from Rothermere in 2009. DMGT retains a minority stake.
Greig's appointment should signal a change in tone at the Daily Mail. His metropolitan sensibilities have clashed with Dacre’s famous Middle Englander intuition in a group of newspapers riven with internal conflict, most notably in the Mail on Sunday’s opposition to Brexit.
The Daily Mail under Dacre has led a tubthumping campaign for Britain to abandon the EU without interference from above. Greig may demand the same freedom to shift the position.
The word from Kensington tonight is that Greig’s Mail will be much like his Mail on Sunday in tone. In what would be a blow to Brexiteers the titles, historically separate, will share resources and political lines as never before.
The mutual antipathy between the two men makes it hard for some inside DMGT to envisage Greig as editor with Dacre on his shoulder as chairman of Associated. The younger man, known for a  more emollient approach to advertisers than his predecessor, will report directly to the proprietor. His boss at Tatler described him as "50pc courtier, 50pc old-school hack".
Dacre successor Geordie Greig faces digital and Brexit conundrums at the Daily Mail

Paul Dacre will remain as chairman of DMGT's newspapers
“I really don’t understand how those two could possibly work together like that,” says a longstanding DMGT confidant.
Greig will be replaced at the Mail on Sunday via an internal promotion. Ted Verity, one of Dacre's deputies known for his savvy commissioning of features that appeal to Daily Mail readers, will move across into Greig's chair.
When Grieg steps into Dacre’s shoes in November his main challenge will be what to do about Mailonline and how to work with its turbulent chief, Martin Clarke. Perhaps the only executive within Associated said to have a management style more aggressive than Dacre, he was also the only one to merit a namecheck from the editor in the internal memo announcing his departure.
Just as the Daily Mail is a reflection of Dacre's world view, Mailonline is a creation based squarely on Clarke’s high-energy empire building. Run independently and in parallel to the Mail print titles, it has its own editorial staff of more than 600. Mailonline it is the biggest newspaper site in the world with 13.6 million daily visitors accessing its never-ending and constantly updated stream of celebrity photographs and videos, crime stories and a bit of politics.
The success has made Clarke powerful, although DMGT is yet to see a return on its heavy investment. At the company’s half year results last month the rapid growth that investors had been assure would one day lead to profits and make up for the gradual decline of print came to an abrupt halt.
Changes to the Facebook algorithm to reduce the number of news articles that appear in favour of personal updates from friends and family sent traffic down 9pc. Revenue growth slowed to a crawl and DMGT shares sank by a tenth as fears that Mailonline will not be able to replace income from the Daily Mail rose.
Dacre successor Geordie Greig faces digital and Brexit conundrums at the Daily Mail

Mailonline publisher Martin Clarke is known for his quick temper
Clarke has claimed that “ Facebook or Google cannot break our business” but given the expense of Mailonline’s chase for vast scale, DMGT investors have doubts. More newspapers are now seeking digital riches through subscriptions and deeper relationships with readers.
“The audience success of Mailonline is chiefly a US story, with the model driven by fly-bys and the publisher is unable to leverage reader loyalty in a really meaningful way,” said the industry experts Enders Analysis in a recent research note.
Cost cuts seem an inevitable priority for Greig. A gradual merger of the Daily Mail and Mailonline would be an obvious way to deliver them, if the new editor can navigate a relationship with Clarke. Dacre has signalled that as chairman he will continue to protect investment in the print newsroom.
“It would be fair to say that we’re looking at increasing alignment of the editorial operations of the Mail and Mailonline,” said a company insider.
Dacre’s departure from the front lines of Fleet Street is the end of an successful era for the Daily Mail. The shape of the next one as Greig faces a digital conundrum and leadership challenges is uncertain.
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