It’s pretty hard to think of any UK company that’s been as deep in the mire as News International, the News Corporation-owned company that published the recently-extinguished phone-hacking News of the World.
But News is reviewing its £28m account according to Campaign, suggesting that the ever-combative company has decided that sitting in the corner and having a good cry is not the way to proceed.
It’s a pretty odd time to review its agencies (Engine Group and its WCRS for the Sun, CHI for The Times and Sunday Times, media through Mindshare) though. Unless something big is afoot and it just might be in the form of The Sun on Sunday, a replacement for the unlamented but hugely profitable News of the World.
This replacement paper was mooted originally for last autumn shortly after the NoW closed but wiser heads prevailed (the paper would have been slaughtered, not least by tarring the daily Sun with the NoW brush, a fate it has so far miraculously escaped). But News International (and its owner) needs those Sunday profits back, otherwise its UK newspapers just don’t stack up. The Times loses about £40m a year and the Sunday Times doesn’t make anything like the money it used to (the Sun still does).
Much of the NoW’s four million circulation has gone to Trinity Mirror’s Sunday Mirror with a sizeable chunk heading to Richard Desmond’s The Star on Sunday. But in the absence of ‘the screws’ the Sunday market, long a mainstay of the UK media scene, is moribund with many former NoW readers giving up on a Sunday paper. It wasn’t really a ‘news’ paper anyway.
Would a Sunday Sun recapture those lost readers for News International. Well it’s the problem hinted at above; the NoW was based on a ‘kiss and tell’ celebrity-driven agenda, hence the fatal appeal of hacking their phones. But that’s much harder to these days, with the hounds, like the Leveson Inquiry, on the tabloids’ tail. Even the NoW’s notorious ‘fake sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood (pictured) is going straight these days, plying his trade for the Sunday Times.
If I were Rupert Murdoch I’d give up and go and cry in the corner. But he’s made of sterner stuff than me.