Princess Diana is back. Having apparently fallen out of favour at the Daily Express she has now been returned to her right place - on the front page, every other day.
In 2012 the Express had Diana on the front page just three times. But now they have clearly woken up in a cold sweat wondering what on earth they were doing and promising themselves they'll never let her go again.
In an effort to make up for lost time The Express has had Diana on the front page roughly every other day for the past month. Here's Monday's front page on which The Express declared the SAS had murdered Diana:
Oddly other media outlets seem to be overlooking this story. Other headlines in the series have included a claim that David Cameron knew all about the SAS hit on Diana, though ultimately the Express has really just been repeating the same story for a month, occasionally moving around the words in the headline.
You can see them all at the recently launched Express Bingo website though here's a selection:
The Express is still clearly a little short of match practice when it comes to conjuring the kind of headlines about Diana it was once known for. At its peak The Express had Diana being killed off by a combination of spies armed with laser beams and a well-rehearsed MI6 'tunnel murder scheme' (all wrriten by The Express while it criticised others who tried to peddle conspiracy theories about her death):
Whether journalists at The Express really believe these headlines is rather a moot point. What clearly matters most is they believe it's what their readers want - or at least what they may have wanted seven years ago.
Back in 2006, at the peak of the Express's Diana coverage, the paper claimed 86 per cent of its readers were in the conspiracy theory camp:
Perhaps it does sell papers in the short term, but the bigger picture is that the Express is losing readers faster than its closest competitors. It has lost more than 300,000 since 2006. That's a 38% drop, compared to 22% at the Mail and 27% at the The Sun over the same period.
Newspapers are in decline generally, of course, but The Express has surely done itself no favours leaning so heavily on stories which may have worked once upon a time and now work with far fewer people. It has tethering itself to an ageing readership with the same handful of stories: dementia; arthritis; pensions; Diana and of course the weather.
Those surviving Express readers who cared enough about a Diana conspiracy theory in 2006 won't have got any younger in the intervening years (despite the Express's claim today that experts have "reversed the ageing process").
The Express's inability to move on and consign Diana to the past seems to be a symptom of a paper that is ill at ease with its future.