MailOnline is a success story that hasn’t made a profit

The company is better than most at raking in online ad cash, but it’s still up against it

The Daily Mail, as a business proposition, is both a success story and a cautionary tale. Its parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust, collects more online advertising revenues than most but even the notorious and well-read MailOnline is no profit machine.

It is still in the process of "taking real strides on its path to profitability", as the company's chief executive, Paul Zwillenberg, put it this week.

The good news for DMGT and its DMG Media division is that declining newspaper revenues are being offset by online ones – not a given in today’s beleaguered media industry.

A 12 per cent decline in print advertising revenue in the six months to the end of March was more than cancelled out by 2 per cent growth in circulation revenues and a 19 per cent underlying rise in MailOnline revenues.


This meant that overall revenues for the Mail businesses increased 2 per cent, while total advertising income across the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline rose 5 per cent.

That 2 per cent growth in circulation revenues, incidentally, was achieved through cover-price increases. In the UK, the Daily Mail's circulation has dropped 6 per cent and the Mail on Sunday's has fallen 9.9 per cent over the year to April, according to the monthly audited ABC figures for the British market.

Over the past year, only the Times (up 2.1 per cent), the Financial Times (up 0.6 per cent) and the free Metro (up 9.9 per cent) have added to their circulation. The overwhelming trend in print is one of decline.

This is why DMGT and its competitors believe the future is online. MailOnline, unlike the subscription-focused Times and the Financial Times, plays the single-minded game of maximising its audience reach. On an average day, it has 15 million global unique browsers.

But MailOnline is yet to be profitable in its own right because online advertising doesn't pay anywhere near as handsomely as print advertising – and because Google and Facebook are sucking up all the digital ad cash anyway. If and when it gets there, it will be no surprise if it goes its separate ways from the newspaper that spawned it.