Will Mirror crack in The Sun’s heat?

Roger Eastoe, long-term Mirror group employee and the replacement for Colin Myler as managing director of the Daily Mirror, has his work cut out if the paper is to catch up with fierce rival The Sun.

In the tabloid circulation wars the Daily Mirror has long been fighting a losing battle against the Sun.

Circulation figures released this week show that the Mirror has slipped more than three per cent to an average of 2,455,534 during the past six months, while the Sun has almost maintained its position with an ABC figure of 4,027,907.

The Daily Mirror’s latest hopes of hitting back at Rupert Murdoch’s News International may come in the form of its new managing director Roger Eastoe.

Eastoe is a staunch Mirror loyalist, who joined in 1976 as a sales development executive and has since had several senior management jobs.

Deputy managing director of the Mirror Group since 1990, he took over the reins of the Daily Mirror last week after Colin Myler’s sudden departure.

Myler had only been in the role for 11 months after he was plucked from the Mirror’s editorship to take over as managing director.

Myler’s departure has been linked with the Daily Mirror’s football promotion fiasco last Monday (MW August 9) when news of the Mirror’s Football Mania magazine was leaked to the Sun, who launched a spoiler called Football Football.

“Any small slippage, like the football magazine, ends up with someone walking out of the door – or being propelled out,” says a source within the newspaper industry.

It is understood Myler had been in talks with Mirror Group chief David Montgomery about him taking over the editorship of the Sunday Mirror. But instead, Myler has severed ties with the company, leaving with what is believed to be a 300,000-plus settlement.

Industry sources say that there was a falling out between Mont- gomery and Myler.

Despite Montgomery’s prickly reputation, Eastoe has remained and prospered. Long before Montgomery’s arrival, he was appointed to the Mirror Group board in 1984 and five years later took over as group advertising director. As group deputy managing director he has responsibility for marketing and promotion of all the company’s titles.

And in September last year, he was given additional power over the advertising revenue for the group – including cable channel Live TV.

That Eastoe has remained, working under Montgomery for so long, is surprising, says one industry spokesman. “Roger is part of the old regime, the Maxwell days.”

“If you bumped into him going home at ten o’clock at night, he’d be carrying a case full of work to take home with him,” he says.

“Eastoe is a great survivor – when Montgomery came in people were counting the days that he would survive,” says another.

“What has helped him is that as a sales and marketing man he also has friends on the editorial floor.” Eastoe also has a close alliance with Sunday Mirror managing director Bridget Rowe, who has been in the ascendant of late.

Eastoe himself is modest about his appointment, pleading he was too busy to conduct an interview. Looking at the Mirror’s position against the Sun, he has a lot of work to do.

The Mirror has not made enough of its position as the only daily tabloid to support the Labour Party, according to some agency buyers.

“Instead they’ve gone down the Sun path and it isn’t working. Murdoch can just pump more money into the Sun, while the Mirror group has far much less cash in its coffers,” says one buyer.

Profits for the group were down in 1995 due to the costs of launching Live TV. Pre-tax profits before exceptional items fell to 77.1m from 84.7m in the previous year.

However, whether Eastoe is the man to turn the Mirror around is questioned by many in the industry.

“The ad department is not respected. It has good people but it is incredibly autocratically run. I don’t think we’ll see them do things differently – it’s not a change of style,” says one industry source.

He says the Mirror needs something new – ultimately a fresh face in the group bringing in new ideas. “I believe what they need is a total review of their position in the market and their ad sales strategy,” he says.

“The Mirror Group has always made good profits, but a lot of it is by default. The readership, however, isn’t that bad and if a Labour government gets in then things may pick up a bit.”

Some believe Eastoe’s 20 years at the Mirror Group actually works against him. His move reaffirms the status quo and is unlikely to spur the radical changes needed to combat The Sun.

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