Will the News of the World save Mirror publisher?

Rupert Murdoch isn’t a very happy bunny at the moment although he can console himself with the thought that things could be much worse (they still might be).

But what the News Corporation boss probably hates the most is that his decision to close the News of the World in the wake of the phone hacking scandal has thrown a wholly unexpected lifeline to Trinity Mirror, the company that owns his long-time rivals the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and People.

Murdoch made his fortune by second guessing and then outsmarting the Mirror titles when they were owned by the old IPC (which sold him the daily Sun in the first place) and then turned the screw in vintage style when they fell into the hands of ‘bouncing Czech’ entrepreneur and fraudster Robert Maxwell.

But this morning Trinity Mirror shares rose by nearly 20 per cent (Trinity is the local newspaper firm the national titles merged with) even though it produced a truly horrendous set of half year results.

CEO Sly Bailey, a former IPC magazines ad manager who earns about £3m a year, was able to tell shareholders that sales of the Sunday Mirror and sister Sunday title the People had surged (to 1.8m and 800,000 respectively) as the UK’s Sunday tabloids (other gainers were Richard Desmond’s Star on Sunday and Sunday Express and Associated’s Mail on Sunday) scrapped pretty successfully over the carcase of the NoW and its 2.7m readers.

How long this lasts is anyone’s guess but Brits, even posh ones, do like a bit of rough to go with their breakfast on Sunday.

And Sunday papers remain important for many classes of advertiser including retailers, mail order companies and savings and investment firms.

Murdoch could try to put an end to what he will undoubtedly see as an outbreak of ridiculous and unjust nonsense by launching a Sunday Sun (he’s already registered the name the Sun on Sunday). But one wonders whether the old boy still has the heart for the UK newspaper game. Even his ‘quality’ Sunday Times, once a veritable goldmine, saw its circulation slip below one million for the first time in nearly 50 years.

He might just be minded to give up the troublesome business entirely. And if he does there won’t be anyone else inside News Corp trying to persuade him otherwise.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.