SteveMironThe impending departure of Steve Miron from the managing director’s role at Associated Newspapers’ The Mail on Sunday and Mail Online for a job in radio will see him exit the newspaper publishing industry during one of its most challenging times. And, while he is not likely to leave until the end of the year, talk is already rife about who his likely successor might be.

Steve Auckland, managing director of Associated’s Metro and London Lite is one name being men-tioned among press buyers. With a background in regional publishing, he moved from Yorkshire Post Newspapers to join Metro in 2002, and later oversaw the launch of London Lite. Some buyers call him a “rising star”, though MindShare investment director for publishing, Paul Thomas says: “Whether he wants the job is another question”.

The Mail on Sunday’s advertising director, Simon Davies is another name being bandied about, as is Evening Standard managing director Andrew Mullins. But, for now, there is no word from Associated on just who it is planning to tap on the shoulder.

Given the scale of change occurring within News International, and an industry-wide trend toward cost cutting, Thomas says Miron’s departure could well trigger a restructure at Associated.

“It’s possible they could take it as an opportunity to merge the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday under Guy Zitter [Daily Mail managing director and group commercial director],” Thomas says. “There would be potential cost savings there”.

On external contenders for Miron’s role, many press buyers point to Mike Anderson, a former Associated man who recently moved from his role as managing director of News Group Newspapers to a new digital position encompassing the entire publishing group.

Fish out of water

And with the shake-up at News International still continuing there may well be a few senior staff looking around, such as Mark Chippendale, the former media director of News Group Newspapers. But as one industry insider says: “I’m not sure he’s an Associated kind of guy – it’s all big collars and big knots on their ties over there. Mark would be a fish out of water.”

With Miron spending the rest of the year seeing out his contract, just who will fill his role is still anyone’s guess.

But whoever it is will be inheriting “a very, very strong brand”, according to Manning Gottlieb OMD, executive director of press, Mark Gallagher. “It’s The Sunday Times of the mid-market. Together with News of the World for the popular reader, all three titles jump out as market leaders,” he says.

Gallagher says the free Prince CD giveaway illustrates that The Mail on Sunday is not shy of trying new things and “innovative ways” of marketing itself.

But regardless of the paper’s slight 0.1% increase in month-on-month circulation in July to 2.2 million, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, it remains a victim of an industry-wide circulation and revenue downturn.

One industry expert says all the Sunday titles are “in a bit of trouble”. “It’s not about circulation but about revenue. A year ago for example [The Mail on Sunday] carried eight full-colour pages [of advertising], this year there are three. And it’s the same for everyone,” the source says.

Online offering

And while it is seeing good growth in its Mail Online offering, which managed to push from its long-held number one market position last April for that month, together with every other newspaper website it is still trying to develop a model that will generate profit.

Miron’s successor will have to contend with the online onslaught, declining circulation in the Sunday market and the impact of the economic downturn. As another press buyer says: “It won’t be the easiest brief”.

Camille Alarcon