There is a future for the newspaper industry as “people don’t want news – they need it”, David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun, told a London Press Club event on November 5th.
Speaking in one of his first public appearances since being appointed editor of the UK’s most-read newspaper, Dinsmore was interviewed by the BBC’s John Pienaar before taking questions from a packed crowd of media professionals and students.
Dinsmore said it had been “great fun but incredibly challenging” returning to the editorial side in June after focusing on distribution and printing in his previous role as director of operations for News International. It was, he added, “a very different world to even four or five years ago”, referring to the 24/7 approach covering nine platforms, including video, apps and social media as well as the print edition.
The Sun’s new ‘paid-for content across all platforms strategy’ was of interest both to Pienaar and questioners in the audience. Dinsmore dismissed claims of its online audience declining by a third since the introduction of the paywall as “finger in the air” figures as no actual data has been released.
“It’s a completely different world – everyone who consumes our content is paying for it. They are hugely engaged and doing so day in day out,” he explained. “We are learning all the time with this and I expect to be learning over the next two decades. People underestimate sea change in newspapers – we’ve gone from lobbing stories to trying to understand data.” He pointed to this week’s appointment of a head of data insight at the title as an example of the continual learning process.
Pienaar asked whether The Sun – compared to the perceived glory days of Gotcha! and the infamous Neil Kinnock lightbulb front page – had lost its mojo? “What’s changed is the landscape,” replied Dinsmore, citing the name change to The Son after the birth of Prince George as proof that a Sun front page can still go viral internationally.
“We must all remember that the content we produce every day becomes the subject of almost every conversation in country,” he added. “Circulation may be down but our voice has got louder.”
Responding to a question about Plebgate, Dinsmore said that it still had a long way to run, with many strands to it. Stating that he stands by The Sun’s original story, he advised the audience to follow developments closely. On the Hillsborough inquest Dinsmore pledged to treat it sensitively and cover it fully.
Unsurprisingly the issue of Page 3 came up, with Ed Miliband just the latest political figure to enter the debate. “I make the paper for the readers, not for No More Page 3, the Twitterati or Guardian readers,” he said, citing readership research that cited it as an intrinsic part of the brand, with a ‘do not touch it’ conclusion, with female readers more vociferously pro-Page 3 than male ones.
In closing Dinsmore, a keen cyclist who owns seven bikes, revealed he had been cycling just once in his five months as Sun editor, underlining the all-consuming nature of leading the UK’s best-known, and most popular, newspaper brand in 2013.
The event, held at the ICA, was the latest in a series organised by the London Press Club, following last month’s investigative journalism debate with Alan Rusbridger, Andrew Gilligan and Heather Brooke. Next up is a Women in Media forum on November 19 featuring Kay Burley, Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands and Carla Buzasi of the Huffington Post.