The head of the Daily Mail’s online offshoot is stepping down in the latest management upheaval at the publisher of Britain’s best-selling daily newspaper.
Martin Clarke, who built MailOnline into one of the world’s most-read newspaper websites, is to leave at the end of February after 12 years at the helm.
Insiders said they were surprised by the departure of Clarke, who had been widely seen internally as a beneficiary of recent senior personnel changes — notably the exit of the Daily Mail’s editor Geordie Greig.
The 57-year-old is close to Greig’s predecessor Paul Dacre, who last week was appointed editor-in-chief of the parent company’s consumer media titles.
Clarke is known for a sometimes ferocious temper, but also for masterminding the digital strategy of the Mail, which had been slower to build an online presence than its rivals — not least because Dacre was long sceptical that the internet was the future of newspapers.
While the Daily Mail had a website before Clarke took charge, he relaunched it with its own distinctive identity, featuring a prominent use of pictures and an agenda more skewed to showbiz and celebrity coverage than its mid-market print counterpart.
The format has proved popular with web users and MailOnline, known as DailyMail.com in its important growth market of the US, has become increasingly significant to Daily Mail and General Trust.
The site attracts 250m unique users a month, 90m of whom are in the US, according to the company.
Recently disclosed annual results showed revenues from MailOnline jumped 16 per cent in the year to September. At the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday titles, by contrast, revenues eased 2 per cent as an uptick in advertising failed to offset a continued decline in circulation.
MailOnline has long been run separately to the print titles, but people with knowledge of the company said the recent management changes opened the door to closer integration.
Clarke, who is both chief executive and editor-in-chief of MailOnline, said he would “remain available” to the company until the end of next year.
He said in a statement that he had indicated to Lord Rothermere, chair of DMGT, that he “wanted to pursue new challenges” earlier this year.
“It has been an honour to work with so many talented, hard-working and committed people,” he said. “This has been a once-in-a-lifetime ride . . . I wish everyone in the company all the very best.”
Jonathan Harmsworth, Viscount Rothermere, described Clark as “one of the greatest editors of his generation”. He said: “I am eternally grateful to him for all his immense hard work and genius over the years.”