Lloyd Embley reveals his new vision for seven-day Mirror (part one)

Lloyd Embley, the new editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, wants to quash a few rumours, most pressing of which is that he is about to ditch the Daily Mirror's long-standing allegiance to the Labour Party.

Lloyd Embley: editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror
Lloyd Embley: editor of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror

In his first interview since the dramatic restructure at the publisher at the end of May, in which Embley took the helm and both editors Richard Wallace and Tina Weaver walked out, the 46-year-old clearly has a few points to address. First up, political persuasion. 

"The Mirror will absolutely continue to be a left-of-centre paper supporting the Labour Party," says Embley.

"But, on occasions when we think the Labour party is saying something that is not in the best interest of our readers, I think we will have the conviction to say that. But we are not going to be switching political allegiance. This would be clearly insane."

This particular rumour has been bubbling under in the three weeks since Embley took over the dual editorship of the Mirror titles, a move that shocked the media industry.

What happened that fateful 30 May, which left two of Fleet Street's longest-standing editors unceremoniously axed, we will come to later. However, the upshot is that Embley is now one of the most powerful editors in the country by dint of being at the helm of two of its most famous newspapers.

Embley is an 18-year veteran of the Mirror titles, joining the Daily Mirror back in 1994 and holding numerous roles while working his way up the editorial ladder. He cut his editor's teeth on the Mirror’s sister Sunday title, The People, which he took control of in 2008 and switched from a left-wing to a politically independent title.

That was grist for the rumour mill to assert he would now shift the political stance of the Daily Mirror. Others have voiced concern that the Sunday Mirror might be emasculated as part of the move to a "seven-day operation" that Embley now heads up.

Seven-day operation

The much-talked about "seven-day operation", in a nutshell, is an attempt by parent company Trinity Mirror to run the Daily and Sunday Mirror more efficiently with staffers, commercially and editorially, working across both titles.The Daily Mirror

It apes News International's strategy with a seven-day Sun and, over time, is likely to be copied by other newspaper groups, as they battle to maintain circulations amid a depressed print market.

"I have been asked 'is the Sunday Mirror going to still be called the Sunday Mirror," says Embley, "or will it be called the Mirror with a little yellow circle saying 'On Sunday’?'

"Of course not – it will continue to be called the Sunday Mirror as it is a Sunday newspaper."

At this stage, the Mirror’s "seven-day operation" remains a work in progress, which will bed in over the coming weeks, no doubt with much kicking and screaming from some journalists who previously saw the two Mirror titles as rivals.

As part of the changes, there are likely to be further job cuts, and some believe journalist headcount across the two titles could be reduced from around 250 to around 220 over time, but there will not be a major cull of staff, says Embley.

Trinity Mirror believes that the new system makes the Mirror titles fleet-of-foot, able to share commercial and editorial resources across the titles unlike before, with multimedia journalists contributing to print, digital and mobile.

Embley, the unknown quantity

So what of Embley himself? He is one of the least high-profile Fleet Street editors out there, although this will change over the coming months, as he will likely find himself becoming newspaper fodder.

He is also likely to be courted by politicians of a red stripe like never before – editing The People does not get you invited to a dinner party at Ed Milliband's house. Editing the Daily Mirror does.

Media Week interviews Embley along with Trinity Mirror nationals managing director Mark Hollinshead, in a room on the 22nd floor at One Canada Square, the Mirror titles' Canary Wharf headquarters.

The duo sit behind a large table, empty except for a magazine, the cover-star of which is a  certain fallen, flame-haired, newspaper chief executive, whose demise is no doubt of some interest to them.

The first thing that strikes you about Embley is that he sounds like a toff (he attended the private Malvern College and likes to ski and play golf). One kind of hoped the man who edited a weekly tabloid whose stock stories were of the sex and sleaze variety to be a hard-living, expletive-spitting, menacing Northerner.

Embley is none of these. What he is, though, is clearly ambitious, full of vim, a realist, and, perhaps most importantly, an out-and-out modern-day journalist, as comfortable talking about production issues and marketing, as he is placement of stories.

Whisper it quietly, he even goes out to visit media agencies – something, he says, he will be doing more of in future. One staffer on the Mirror says of Embley, "he makes a point of knowing the names of the guys of the commercial floor".

Man of the people

"I don't have a commercial background," says Embley, "but I'm interested in the commercial side of the business. And I don’t spend my entire life on the 22nd floor [editorial] so they know me on the 21st floor [commercial]. They know who I am in marketing, circulation and advertising as I go down there and talk to them.

"One of my biggest educations at The People is that it was a difficult task and I needed to go down [to other departments] and shout about the paper. It was in my interest and The People's interest to do that.

"And that is how you forge relationships and have a greater understanding of the commercial challenges facing papers. But I know what I am – first and foremost I am a journalist."

Aside from the paper's political shift, his tenure at The People was most notable for bringing the title back from the sidelines into the mainstream. And despite it being politically independent, the title was the only national newspaper to back Ed Miliband's bid for leadership of the Labour Party.

He will hope to be similarly prophetic at the Mirror titles. When Embley took over in 2008, The People had lost its way and, through underfunding, was in danger of falling off readers' and advertisers' radar.

"I am happy with what I achieved at The People. Between myself and my deputy (Gary Jones), we got the best out of the staff," Embley says.

"We identified what was wrong with the paper – it was marginalised and didn't appeal to very many people, even though it was called The People. It got to the point when, with two young children, I stopped keeping it in the house."

Like he will now do with the Mirror titles, Embley's primary goal was managing circulation decline, namely fighting it better than the rest of Fleet Street – the barometer of success of any editor's stewardship these days.

"When I went to The People," he says, "the paper was in double-digit monthly decline [in circulation]. In May 2009, we relaunched the paper. The company believed in what I was doing, invested in it, got a marketing budget, and in the following two years, there only two months of double-digit decline."

This may be the case, but between the beginning of 2008 and May 2012, the Sunday paper’' circulation fell nearly 200,000 to 462,000, albeit in a declining market.

It is Embley's ability to run a paper on leaner resources than the Mirror titles that, according to Hollinshead, won him the editorship of the Mirror titles.

Read part two of Media Week's interview with Lloyd Embley

Follow John Reynolds on Twitter @johnreynolds10

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