Has 'The Times' been 'dazzled' by the 'Mail'?

Latest figures show 'The Thunderer' recording the biggest year-on-year circulation rise of any daily. So where might it be drawing inspiration?

Partly it's about profits. The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday make them in abundance. Partly it's about circulation. Over the past two decades the Mail titles have provided consistent growth when all around them have mostly suffered decline. Partly it's about certainty and conviction. The Mail titles are not into pussyfooting. Partly it's about Dacre.

Partly it's about profits. The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday make them in abundance. Partly it's about circulation. Over the past two decades the Mail titles have provided consistent growth when all around them have mostly suffered decline. Partly it's about certainty and conviction. The Mail titles are not into pussyfooting. Partly it's about Dacre.

Actually it's mainly about Paul Dacre, because all the other things lead from the near-mystical aura surrounding the Mail editor. Few have heard him (he hardly ever does interviews, although he did turn up on Desert Island Discs a few months ago); few have seen him outside the office (he does not do TV or the celebrity circuit); everyone knows he is paid more than £1m a year, which is more than other editors.

But the other editors don't mind. Because even these ultra-competitive autocrats, to a man and woman, are just a bit in awe of Dacre's success, his job-security, his salary and, more than anything, his iconic status. And the February circulation figures show that the Daily Mail is the only daily paper outside the quality sector - to which we will come later - to increase sale, year-on-year, as did The Mail on Sunday.

Kelvin Mackenzie, the former editor of The Sun, writing in the current British Journalism Review, describes Dacre as "the finest and most successful newspaper editor in this country". Never a mincer of words, Mackenzie says he admires Dacre's determination to "crush the life out of his rivals", and goes on to suggest that the Mail editor should be paid "considerably more".

You would not expect such hyperbole from the editor of The Guardian. But Alan Rusbridger, delivering the Hugo Young Lecture at Sheffield University last week, said there was usually a newspaper that exerted a peculiar gravitational pull on others. "Today it is Paul Dacre's Daily Mail that has others dazzled in its headlights."

Of the two new compacts, it is clearly The Times which is following a more middle-market agenda. Its front pages on occasion have a Mail feel to them, both in appearance and in their pursuit of a consumerist agenda. It makes frequent use of photographs of celebrity models, and these themes are maintained on inside pages. The approach seems to be working. At 3.6 per cent, The Times again this month records a significant rise in circulation. The Independent (2.8 per cent) also continues its circulation progress - pursuing a very different course through its front pages with attitude.

Rusbridger asked: "What are newspapers for?" and, inevitably, he turned to the compact revolution in the quality sector. The Guardian (down 0.8 per cent compared with February last year) has been a victim of the success over the past year of The Times and The Independent, and will launch its own larger-than-tabloid compact - the same size as Le Monde - late this year or early next.

His thesis was that the smaller format for quality papers has had a distinct impact on content. Editors have looked at the success, in terms of both profits and circulation, of the Mail titles and tried some of its techniques. Rusbridger cited as an example a Times front-page headline - "Countdown to the Culling" - that embraced stories about threatened jobs in the civil service and a threat to badgers.

On the same day Rusbridger was talking in Sheffield, the founding editor of The Independent, Andreas Whittam Smith, writing in London's Evening Standard, was making similar observations. He compared the prominence given to the political rows over the Terrorism Bill in the Telegraph and Guardian - dominating the front page - with that given in the two compacts. He cited The Times's use of a story about credit card fraud and The Independent's front-page essay about George W Bush. "The Indy and The Times," wrote Whittam Smith, "are thus setting aside one of the fundamental rules of serious journalism as it has been conducted in the past 150 years. This states that the weight the editor gives to a story by its position, length and headlines, precisely indicates the newspaper's assessment of its importance to readers. By this criterion, I can't see, for instance, that an item on credit card fraud can ever overtake a government plan to remove the right of habeas corpus."

Whittam Smith pays tribute to the creativity of the new-look Independent - this debate is very civilised - saying he had often "rejoiced" at the paper's use of the front page. The Independent was using the most important page to provoke readers, to make them think.

It is a fascinating debate, whether form drives content, whether the Daily Mail influences compact quality papers, whether attitude should drive the big news of the day off the front page. The Guardian has yet to show its hand. Rusbridger might have been defending a decision to remain broadsheet. But a broadsheet is not what The Guardian is going to remain.

So far, the effect of these different approaches to quality journalism is that the quality sector of the daily newspaper market has grown year on year by 3.2 per cent, while the red-top end has shrunk by 5.6 per cent. That's 376,000 copies, more than either The Independent or The Guardian sells.

For Sundays the tabloid tale is the same, only worse. The News of the World, Sunday Mirror, and Daily Star Sunday are all down more than seven per cent year on year. Throw in The People (down three per cent) and the market sector is down more than half a million copies in a year. Compare that with the quality sector, which has increased by a few thousand copies - in part thanks to this newspaper recording a year-on-year rise for the seventh consecutive month.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

DIARY

Bad sports day

The jolly atmosphere at last week's Sports Journalism Awards was soured somewhat when the awarding of Sports Story of the Year to The Observer's Duncan Mackay was called into question. Did the judges not realise that the "exclusive" that won it for Mackay - about a pre-Olympic doping scandal - was not an exclusive at all? Meanwhile, the awarding of Sports Diarist of the Year to our own Alan Hubbard had rival Charlie Sale of the Daily Mail publicly remonstrating with one

of the judges. And one organiser came away from the occasion so stressed that he is refusing to have any more to do with it. Time the dinner was equipped with a sin-bin, perhaps?

Ross the unrivalled

Friends of Ross Benson, the legendary Daily Mail foreign correspondent and diarist who died suddenly last week aged only 56, fondly recall his insistence on impeccable turnout, even on the battlefield. Rushed to the Middle East in the late 1990s when a war with Iraq seemed imminent (only to find that he was a few years too early), he soon found a way of passing the time. He paid a visit to Kuwait's finest military tailors and told them to measure him up for a pair of trousers in their best khaki drill. Shall we see Ross's like again?

Tussle over Tom

Consternation at the The Daily Telegraph when highly valued columnist Tom Utley put in for redundancy. Sorry, Tom, no can do. The keen interest shown in him by Paul Dacre over at the Mail is thought to be entirely coincidental.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape