£25m? Not quite enough

The Mail's online revenue is still a drop in the ocean.

According to publisher Martin Clarke (reported by the Guardian)  Mail Online is on course to “break even” this year with revenue of £25m.

But of course, “break even” is a rather subjective term in this context. It may be set to cover its own running costs, but it will still owe a great deal of its success to publishing the content of Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday print editions – whose editorial resources it is nowhere near to covering.

Mail Online has become the success it is by going against industry orthodoxy and investing in its own dedicated team of 100-plus web-only journalists. The result is a site which reaches as many as 100m unique browsers a month worldwide (a figure which we should take with a large pinch of salt*) without doing any discernable harm to print sales, which remain among the most buoyant in the industry.

That £25m digital revenue has to be seen in the context of total revenue for the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Metro of £862m in 2011.

It is only because Associated Newspapers’ print titles remain successful  (generating an operating profit last year of £76m) that the company has been able to indulge in the luxury of creating such a huge, and as I write, loss-making website.

It may be the most successful newspaper website in the world. But revenue of £25m places it, in terms of the size of business it is, as equivalent to a biggish UK regional daily.

If the world market leader in terms of newspaper websites is still only on course to generate £25m in revenue this year – we are a very long way indeed from online news supporting anything like the level of journalistic investment which print still does.

A starting point to answering why that is, is the fact that Mail Online is ad-only and copy sales account for around half Associated Newspapers’ total revenue.

It is also worth noting that according to the National Readership Survey, some  4.3m people a day read the Daily Mail print edition in the second half of 2011. Assuming an average read time of around 40 minutes (again according to the NRS)– that’s 172m advertiser-minutes a day.

In February, Mail Online averaged 2.4m UK browsers a day (let’s forget about the more difficult to monetise worldwide audience for the present). Assuming a generous average time on the site of  6 minutes (Martin Clarke has previously reported an average dwell time of 5.7 minutes)– we are still only looking at 14m advertiser minutes a day.

The worldwide average readership for Mail Online was 5.7m unique browsers in February.

*According to ABC, 30.6m “unique browsers” accessed Mail Online in February. A unique browser is defined as a different device so it is anyone’s guess how many human beings this equates to.

But it does seem rather far-fetched to think that 30m people, or about three quarters of the UK’s online population, is a Mail Online reader.

This article originally appeared in Press Gazette.

Mail photograhers, Photograph: Getty Images.

Dominic Ponsford is editor of Press Gazette

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.