Mumbrella360: Is it time to reconsider The Daily Mail?

Sean Walsh believes The Daily Mail is the voice for the American people. He makes some compelling points.

Sean Walsh believes The Daily Mail is the voice for the American people.

He’s a little biased, being the one tasked with driving the British publication’s rise in the US, but he made a slew of compelling points this morning, during his Mumbrella360 session.

As global chief brand officer at DMG Media, he is responsible for “the brand story for each of our titles around the world”, including The Mail on Sunday, Metro, and the various local iterations of the Daily Mail. As DMG Media’s managing director of US operations, the Australian journalist was aware that the one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t cut it when launching the Mail in the US.

Walsh first became involved in the Daily Mail when he helped launch the Australian version of the publication in 2013. Coming up as a researcher on Today Tonight before spending six years as a producer for A Current Affair, he was perfectly poised to step into the role, professing to being an avid reader before getting involved, describing it as “A Current Affair on steroids”.

Walsh was soon plucked from his Aussie role and asked to replicate the Daily Mail’s success in the US.

While the Daily Mail in the UK is seen as a conservative voice, politically speaking, Walsh knew this partisan angle wouldn’t fly when attempting to net a massive global audience.

“With a global website you have to be covering both sides of politics”, he notes. The Mail has a wide breadth of stories, and exclusives that often set the news agenda, he says.

“Telling great stories that matter” is Walsh’s easy answer when asked about the overarching strategy for breaking into America. Not having a political agenda is a major part of this.

This approach worked wonders. But, while the readership was there, the respect was not.

“Millions of Americans were reading it but our stories weren’t being credited”, he explains.

Walsh recalls being in the NBC offices and seeing their journalists on the Daily Mail site, using it as a source for their stories. Part of the disconnect was that the US journalists still saw it as a UK publication, one step removed from their own news gathering. A foreign source to be taken from at will.

Walsh clocked this, and forged relationships with the major US media brands, ensuring that both Daily Mail and its reporters were credited for their work in breaking key news stories.

Of course, a cursory glance at the website’s splashy front page reveals another focus for the Daily Mail. “We cover celebrity like no-one else”, Walsh says.

Celebrities often complain about The Daily Mail’s coverage of them, but Walsh points out that “everything we do is underpinned by truth”.

When called out by celebrities, he says “it’s because the celebrity just didn’t like the truth of the story.”

It’s all about their remit to give the readers exactly what they want, without any internal bias leading the angle of coverage.

“You tell us you’re coming to read a story about Syria, but we know you’ll end up looking at pictures of Kim Kardashian on the beach,” Walsh laughs.

Walsh notes that giving the readers what they want doesn’t involve any soothsaying or mind-reading. “Everything you do online is underpinned by data”, he reminds.

The comments section is also a boon for the Daily Mail; Walsh said it’s the most exciting part of the site, and a “great barometer of what people are thinking at that moment”.

Walsh explains how the comments sections showcased a wave of support for Donald Trump early in his presidential run. Conversely, he said Hillary Clinton could rescue a cat from a tree, and the comments section would find fault with her actions.

“I like that we have that instant barometer,” he said, noting its comments section acted as a bellwether of sorts. “We believed internally he might take the Presidency,” Walsh revealed. “And he did.”

Investment in firecracker columnists, such as Piers Morgan and former View panelist Meghan McCain, allows the Daily Mail to offer “different opinions and voices that way”, while keeping the news coverage straight down the line.

“We back our columnists” he said when asked what he does when they write something controversial, while noting that the opinion of one writer doesn’t necessarily represent the overall view of the publication.

“We believe in free speech”, he said, noting this platform was given to McCain, who worked on a show called The View, but was often unable to share her view. “She isn’t afraid to push the envelope and give an opinion”, he said.

Walsh compared the Daily Mail with A Current Affair in the way both “always looked at things through the pub test”. He says McCain does the same.

McCain appeared via satellite to explain how she was initially miffed by the Daily Mail’s coverage of her, asking why they never reached out for comment.

After learning they often reached out to the network, who ignored them, McCain offered up a direct line, and soon became fast friends with Walsh. After professing a wish to leave The View around the time Morgan’s column was wrapping up, McCain was an obvious fit.

“There’s always this fear of cancel culture”, McCain said, of working for a TV network.

“The Daily Mail is truly one of the last bastions of free speech when it comes to journalism and commentary in America.”

McCain believes journalism as a whole is suffering in many ways from not allowing a variety of voices and opinions to be platformed.

Walsh agrees, again coming back to his simple theory.

“If it’s important to our reader, that’s what we’re covering. The reader is at the forefront of everything we do, and we just offer them a rich smorgasbord of stories that come from everywhere.”

“We give a voice to people who haven’t got a voice.”

McCain’s columns range from the struggle to find COVID tests in middle America during the pandemic, to why the new Sex and the City series is “too woke”.

As an example of how The Mail sets the news agenda, McCain claimed her column about Biden failing to ensure adequate COVID testing led to a national discussion, and then to an incident where the President (allegedly!) exploded at staffers.

She runs her more controversial column ideas past the editorial team for a heat check, but notes they have never once pushed back on any of her pieces.

“I’m an ethical person and I have limits … but that doesn’t mean i don’t have strong opinions on things,” she notes of her fiery style.

McCain calls the Daily Mail “the most fair political publication in the country”.

Walsh adds: “We’re there to call out both sides.”


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