Holder: Martin Clarke doesn’t like being number two or number three.
The boss of the Daily Mail Australia has said the news site still aims to be number one in Australia despite conceding it is likely to take a short-term hit in traffic following its split with Nine.
The local arm of the British-based publisher has hit a ceiling at fourth place in the Nielsen online news rankings despite getting referral traffic from the Ninemsn news site as part of the joint-venture agreement with Nine Entertainment Co, which was terminated today.
Peter Holder managing director of Daily Mail Australia told Mumbrella: “We are not concerned even if there is a little bit of a blip – the road to success is always under construction.
“(Global MailOnline boss) Martin Clarke doesn’t like being number two or number three. We are under no illusions about the expectations of the company and we are clearly aiming to get significantly higher in Nielsen by the end of this year.”
“Also our editor Luke (McIlveen) didn’t leave (News.com.au) to be number four or five. He was instrumental in getting his previous employer to number one and he wants to be at that level here.”
Holder’s comments come in the wake of Nine Entertainment Co., selling off its stake in the Daily Mail Australia to British-based parent company The Daily Mail General Trust, just over two years after the joint-venture was created.
It is understood a key driver for the sale was a frustration from the Daily Mail about how Nine was selling the product, and a concern it was pushing its own properties ahead of the joint venture.
Parsons: our commercial interests have evolved over time
Holder was reluctant to be drawn on this point; however, Nine’s chief digital officer Alex Parsons told Mumbrella: “Our future is around video-led content and through our own brands.
“I would say our consumer and commercial interests have evolved over time,” he said. “We want to refocus in on our own properties.”
DMGT and Nine’s strategy had been to use its popular Ninemsn site to cross-promote content from the Daily Mail in the hope of funnelling traffic to it to make it the most read news website in Australia.
However, internal tensions within the company meant that Ninemsn, under editor-in-chief Hal Crawford, was reluctant to give up its traffic with the result that both sites found themselves stalled, competing for fourth and fifth place behind rivals News.com.au and SMH.com.au as well as the ABC’s news channels.
Asked if he had given up on the aspiration of returning Ninemsn to the top spot, Parsons responded: “I wouldn’t say (we are) raising the white flag.
“(The number one strategy) was true because we thought we were going to lose Microsoft but we haven’t, we have retained them as a commercial partner and doing a really great job with them. We just need to focus in on what works in terms of earnings for our shareholders.
“It seemed like a good break time to take that forward and for us to focus on what’s important for our future.”
Holder said the Daily Mail’s commercial director Mason Rook would lead the sales operation, which they were now taking in-house.
“This signals unbridled opportunity for us,” said Holder. “This is an opportunity from our perspective to expand our coverage in what are the key territories Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
“I have a sales team that is just champing at the bit.”
Asked about concerns some media agencies have around the Daily Mail product and whether its inventory was reaching a lower socio-economic group of consumers Holder said it was a judgement for buyers, but they were seeing steady growth with an affluent audience.
“We have recently had Hugo Boss on the site,” he said. “It is for the agencies to decide but we have really strong demographic and an affluent audience.
“The structure doesn’t really change. Luke McIlveen remains the editor, I remain managing director and my remit is to oversee the commercial operation.
“The message from us is crystal clear – we have a very engaged and highly evolved audience.”