David Dinsmore, the former editor of the Scottish Sun, has just been named new editor of The Sun replacing Dominic Mohan. Dinsmore was very well-liked in Glasgow by those who worked for him (he’s also a Spectator reader, which speaks well of anyone). Educated at Strathallan School (where he wrote for its shortlived socialist newspaper Turn Left along with Dominik Diamond) he started working in local newspapers aged 17 and worked his first shift on the Sun aged 22. He was made Scottish Sun editor in 2006 and came down to London as The Sun’s managing editor and eight months ago was promoted to News International’s board. (In the Murdoch empire, managerial secondments are often the precursor to editorial promotion.) Mohan’s Sun has socked it to Cameron in recent months, and I from what little I know of Dinsmore I doubt he’ll be any easier for No10 to seduce. He said that the joy of his appointment was ‘tempered by the ongoing ordeal’ faced by the 20 (and counting) Sun journalists who have been arrested as part of the Met’s investigation into paying tip-off fees to public officials.
It’s not clear yet if this is the sign of a wider upheaval at The Sun but there’s a lot of it about. Amol Rajan was named editor of The Independent earlier this week, ahead of what is expected to be a fairly extensive restructuring of the Lebedev mini-empire. The Times has confirmed a restructuring today, and it would be surprising if any newspaper made it through 2013 without an upheaval of some kind – given that the entire industry is midway through an industrial revolution. It’s interesting that, in the statement Dinsmore released upon his appointment, he refers to The Sun’s aspirations in the provision of video:
There is no better job in journalism than editing Britain’s most popular paper. I relish the opportunity to build on the historic strengths of the Sun, and harness new digital opportunities to offer our loyal readers more than ever. Our exclusive rights to show mobile football clips of the Premier League will be a major enhancement this summer and a sign of more to come.
Even four years ago, no editor would mention video clips in his statement of appointment. But the times they are a-changin’. As Dinsmore would tell you, The Sun is a brand, capable of selling far more than newspapers to its vast army of readers. But selling what? That’s the question. The Guardian is opening cafes and offering expensive ‘masterclasses’ in all kinds of things. The Daily Mail is now the world’s most-read newspaper website.
Newspapers need to find new revenue streams to replace the old ones – which are falling fast. WPP warned about plunging advertising revenues earlier this week. Circulation decline is accelerating; the below chart suggests that, on current trends, the FT, Guardian, Daily Mirror and Indy will have mutated into digital news feeds by the end of the decade. To be a newspaper editor, nowadays, is to be engaged in a battle for survival. So we at The Spectator wish David Dinsmore the best of luck. He’ll certainly need it.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.