Martin Clarke, the publishing chief who has led the expansion of MailOnline into a major global force in ad-funded online news, is to leave his role – the latest in a series of shock high-level job departures at parent company DMG Media.
Clarke is to step down from his roles as DMG Media publisher and chief executive and editor-in-chief of MailOnline and DailyMail.com at the end of February 2022.
It is thought Clarke, who is 57, wants to take a break after 12 years at the helm of MailOnline.
A source familiar with the situation said his departure in three months’ time will allow DMG Media to run a public recruitment process for his successor.
Clarke said: “Earlier this year I indicated to Lord Rothermere [the owner of parent company Daily Mail & General Trust] that, after 12 incredible years building MailOnline into one of the world’s biggest news websites and having established it as a substantially profitable business in its own right, I wanted to pursue new challenges.
“I will therefore be stepping down at the end of February, although I will remain available to the company until the end of 2022 and will, of course, do everything I can to assist in finding a new editor for MailOnline, which must count as one of the most exciting and rewarding news jobs in the business.
“My responsibilities for digital revenues, platform and product will pass to DMG Media’s new CEO Rich Caccappolo in due course.”
The promotion of Caccappolo was widely seen as a strategic shift in favour of digital and Geordie Greig abruptly exited as editor of the Daily Mail in favour of Ted Verity just a day later.
The upheaval comes as Rothermere is on the verge of taking DMGT private after 90 years on the stock market.
“I have had to reluctantly accept Martin’s resignation as he is without doubt one of the greatest editors of his generation; and, I am eternally grateful to him for all his immense hard work and genius over the years,” Rothermere said.
“I wish him the best of luck with his future endeavours and very much hope that we continue to be in partnership on future projects.”
MailOnline’s revenue have grown to become 65% of Mail’s ad sales
MailOnline became one of the world’s most popular English-language websites under Clarke’s leadership as he pioneered attention-grabbing headlines and the so-called “sidebar of shame” of celebrity stories and launched US and Australian versions of the site.
He also courted advertisers, renting a yacht at Cannes Lions for several years in a row and bringing celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to the global advertising festival.
MailOnline’s ad revenues overtook those of the Mail Newspapers’ print titles, the Daily Mail and Mail On Sunday, in 2018, which the parent company described as “a significant milestone” at the time.
Unlike many other online news titles, MailOnline also kept its content free to maximise its global audience, although DMG Media has launched a paid-for digital version, Mail Plus, which includes an “e-paper” version of the print newspaper.
MailOnline increased ad sales 16% on an underlying basis to £164m in the most recent financial year to September 2021, which represented 65% of Mail Newspapers’ ad revenues.
However, Enders Analysis pointed out in a note, which was published at the start of December before news of Clarke’s departure was announced, that the combined print circulation and ad revenues of the Mail titles are still more than double the revenues of MailOnline.
The free online and paid-for print brands have “dramatically different purposes and identities”, Enders said.
“Our view is a lucrative and sustainable future for the Daily Mail brand is more likely to be a membership model, centred around a premium subscription product, rather than an advertising-led model.”