Around 5 p.m. Pacific time on Valentine’s Day on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, just weeks before COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle emerged from a a turboprop and walked on the apron of Victoria International Airport, a short drive from the $14 million, 11,416 square foot mega-manse they had recently leased to a Russian oligarch or Canadian billionaire, or neither, depending on which tabloid stories you believe. In dark jeans to match her Rothy flats made from recycled plastic water bottles, a sustainable $1,790 Prada sports bag hanging from her wrist, Meghan tucked her hair behind her ear and smiled as she chatted with a small circle. Harry, equally cheerful and relaxed as he dragged a hard-shell carry-on, followed close behind with a baseball cap and Adidas Gazelles.
As they walked towards a black car, a paparazzo focused his lens and zoomed in. He was on assignment for celebrity news agency Backgrid, which had learned that Harry and Meghan were on their way to their opulent Canadian retirement. The photographer had bought a random plane ticket into the airport, where he spent the next few hours peering through a window as he surveyed arrivals. When the royal couple’s flight finally landed, the photographer sprang into action and obtained a series of silver photos, clear enough to reveal every crease and wrinkle in Meghan’s pinstripe blouse, the length of the red beard of her husband, the reflection of their wedding rings and the color of Harry’s belt. The next morning, Backgrid auctioned off the scoop to a small handful of customers. The pictures ended up costing over $25,000, and it was pretty obvious from the get-go who the winning bidder would be. They ended up with DailyMail.com, the United Kingdom’s American website daily mail, who blew up the snaps in a splashy exclusive that was picked up and linked by click-hungry news outlets around the world: “Harry and Meghan are pictured together for the first time since Megxit.”
Much like Harry and Meghan, DailyMail.com is a larger-than-life Anglo-American mash-up, a marriage of the marauding spirit of Fleet Street and the quixotic bravado of America’s digital content boom. The site’s seemingly inexorable rise has been one of America’s media’s most unexpected success stories – a debauched and stubborn middle-market foil to the world’s BuzzFeeds, Vices and HuffPosts, which have seen their mojo plateau over the past two last years. . The umbrella entity of DailyMail.com, the daily mail, co-founded in 1896 by legendary publishing magnate Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, is considered by many to be England’s most influential newspaper, with its weekday circulation of 1.2 million (second only in paying readership behind that of Rupert Murdoch Sun), its all-female audience and its reputation as a vigorous guardian of traditional British centre-right values. On this side of the Atlantic, thanks to the New York and Los Angeles-based web operation it set up just over a decade ago, the Mail has become the reigning titan of American tabloids, the one you get on your desktop or smartphone instead of newsstands. and supermarket checkout lines.
On average, between DailyMail.com and its digital counterparts in the UK and Australia (there’s a landing page for each country, and they all end up on dailymail.co.uk), the Mail produces around 1,700 stories , tens of thousands of photos , and some 900 videos per day. A handful of them end up co-exclusive with DailyMail TV, a three-year syndicated series that won a Daytime Emmy last year for its 2018 season, which featured Asia’s first and only English-language interview. Argento after Anthony’s death. Bourdain, the first joint encounter with Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, and a scoop on Wendy Williams checking into a sober house in Queens. There’s also a regular column from British media personality and former CNN host Piers Morgan, editor of DailyMail.com, who has a knack for capturing the things that piss off everyday Americans (and Brits). and to channel that anger into concise essays that draw up to 2 million readers each. (Harry and Meghan are hypocrites, woke Hollywoodians are hypocrites, etc.)
The whole thing is a raucous assortment of attention-grabbing global and national headlines (very pandemic-focused at the time of this writing, as with most media), sinister crime, and bizarre news (the cult mom of the apocalypse, the Ukrainian dwarf adoption saga), sleazy celebrity fare, royal family scrutiny, and a never-ending stream of lifestyle, health, and science stories that feel like triggers for anxiety or bowls of candy. Gigantic photos and pesky banner ads can crash your browser, persistent grammatical and punctuation errors can make you cringe, and by the time you click on your 7th, 14th, or 21st post of the day, you might start feel a little sick. But regardless, it’s completely addictive, and you’ll keep scrolling, just like the 80 million Americans and 240 million people around the world who visit the Mail’s website each month (at least according to the company’s internal metrics). publication).
“I read it every day,” said Lisa Vanderpump, the restaurateur and former The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star, who grew up with the Daily mail newspaper printed in England. “On a personal level, when they told stories about me, even in very sad times, they always tried to paint a very accurate picture. I trust them.”
This is where things get a little confusing: DailyMail.com is the US component of MailOnline, which has a separate newsroom from the Daily mail printed newspaper. Their two newsrooms are also separate from the Mail on Sunday, which has its own American presence – it was the Mail on SundayLos Angeles-based American editor Caroline Graham, who has cultivated a close relationship with Thomas Markle and has published a series of high-profile scoops (heavily promoted on DailyMail.com) about his strained relationship with the Duchess of Sussex, including the letters over which Harry and Meghan sued the To postparent company of for alleged violations such as misuse of private information and copyright infringement.
The Mail’s online division is overseen by longtime company executive Martin Clarke, now MailOnline publisher, who launched the US operation in 2010. (He declined to be interviewed for this story or to let other employees be interviewed.) In the beginning, it was a low-rent aggregation factory with a bad reputation for stealing other people’s stories without attribution or ties. The team of a few dozen content pitchers were crammed into a small office on Manhattan’s Greene Street, where some staff members preferred to head to the SoHo Grand when nature called. Clarke began importing experienced tabloid journalists, including a group from the Mail’s London headquarters, to bring some seriousness and legitimacy to the operation.
In 2014, he hired Candace Trunzo, a veteran of David Pecker’s American Media Inc. (AMI), where she had worked at World, the national investigator, and as editor of Star. Trunzo is friendly, warm and fun to talk to – exhibiting none of the garish, fear-mongering management tenets that characterize the British and Australian tabloid tradition. But when it comes to looking for tricks and digging up dirt, she’s a killer. At DailyMail.com, Trunzo has his own little pirate ship of hardened tabloid sleuths, some from the UK, others who once served in Pecker’s dwindling army of tabloids. This team is known as the “Exclusive Team” and Trunzo oversees it along with his policy-focused co-editor, Hugh Dougherty. Trunzo’s office is at the center of the upgraded newsroom that DailyMail.com moved into six years ago. It’s in a modern glass tower on Astor Place, with a bright, open-plan enclosure, floor-to-ceiling windows, 360-degree views of Manhattan, TVs galore, and a Jeff Koons sculpture in the lobby. (DailyMail.com also has an office in Washington, of which David Martosko served as face, as well as an office in Los Angeles at Venice Beach, bringing the entire US editorial staff north of 200.)