News International has made the drastic decision to close the News of The World (NOTW) after 48 hours under which maintaining the brand has become increasingly untenable.
The newspaper has been at the centre of fierce criticism from Parliamentarians and the public with its advertisers coming under increasing pressure to pull their bookings.
It looked like this week’s issue was going to be ad free and the initial question was how long would clients stay away before returning to the biggest circulation English language newspaper.
Now that point is moot. News International chairman James Murdoch (among his other titles) has said that the title will cease after this week. It’s a safe bet the decision was made by his father though, who has decided to sacrifice this one limb, albeit a profitable one, to prevent contagion across News Corp brands.
Nothing focuses a business mogul’s mind like share price and with News Corp’s Nasdaq price looking jittery and American investors likely to start cutting up rough, this is a decision that can be justified. The ’News of the Screws’ may be a piece of British publishing history but that means little in the world of global business.
Alongside this decision runs the saga of News Corp’s bid for BSkyB. Murdoch Senior has overcome his attachment to a venerable print brand because the big bucks lie in Sky and its widening tentacles in all forms of digital delivery.
The clearance to make a takeover bid is expected imminently and Murdoch must’ve taken this into consideration when making this decision.
James Murdoch’s statement distances himself and the current regime from those in place when the hacking occurred. He says: “Wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad and this was not fully understood or adequately pursued.”
It’s pretty likely that that the canny Murdochs do have a plan B for their newspaper operations as well.
The Sunday opportunity remains a huge one for direct response print ads and retail clients, speculation has already begun that News International’s The Sun could become a seven-day-a-week publication. Place your bets.