Why did Stephen Miron, managing director of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, take the Global Radio shilling? After all Miron, pretty much a lifer at Associated Newspapers, is also one of its ablest executives – and no doubt about it, he will be missed. On the other hand, what he knows about radio – as opposed to newspapers – need not detain us long.
The cynical answer to the above question is contained in the word “shilling”. Associated is known to be a generous employer but cannot, or will not, compete with the tripled or quadrupled package Miron is likely to pick up as Global’s chief executive of radio.
The money is being offered for good reason: it’s a high-risk, high-reward path Miron is about to embark on. Now that Global has passed the takeover hurdle and successfully acquired GCap, with minimal disposals, Miron will need all his legendary management skills to run Britain’s biggest and most disparate radio business.
But then look at what he’s leaving behind. Where was he going to go at Associated? To the Mail perhaps? Not if current managing director Guy Zitter had anything to do with it.
There must also have been nagging doubts about how long he could sustain the miraculously resilient circulation figures of the MoS before he got blamed when it all went wrong.
Here, Miron’s dilemma is not uncommon among senior UK newspaper executives; he has simply been more far-sighted than most in jumping ship.
The problem lies in the inertia of the industry he serves: it is like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut. The juggernaut is the structural change bearing down on an industry which for far too long has allowed itself to depend on the now-flawed money-making machine of classified advertising, particularly of the regional press variety.
There are ways of stalling, for the time being, the inexorable advance of internet culture, and on the MoS Miron has shown himself a master of them all. Promotional CDs, like the Prince one and the slightly lesser Barry Manilow example, prop up circulation short term. Likewise a short-term uplift from the revamp of Section 2. There was also the clever wheeze, two years ago, of rebranding Ireland on Sunday as MoS and adding its 100,000 circulation to the MoS ABC figures. But these are palliatives, and they depend on substantial investment. As we move into recession, that kind of support will be less available. As we move out, in 18 months to two years’ time, the recovery will happen in a less benign world for traditional newspaper revenue streams. The good old times will be exactly that.
Miron, for one, won’t be around to witness that depressing spectacle. He may not know much about radio (but then nor does Global chairman Charles Allen), but he can bring with him talents valuable to any media enterprise: leadership, people- and negotiating-skills; and an uncanny ability to make the numbers add up.