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Goodbye NOTW, hello PR opportunity?

Posted by Louise Moran on 20th July 2011

As the News of the World phone hacking scandal continues to unfold, we have to look ahead to the impact this has for PRs and the future of the UK media landscape.

Will there be a Sun on Sunday? Will rival Sunday tabloids manage to persuade readers to switch over to their offering? Or is this a sign of darker days to come for the UK media industry?

From hack to PR flack

It’s nothing new for journalists to cross over to PR. Journalists often have great professional contacts, understand the pressures and requirements of media and know what it’s like on the other side of the fence.

It’s likely that many of the well known columnists and reporters who made their name with News of the World  will  move over to rival publications, but we can also expect increased competition in the PR jobs market as 200 out of work former News of the World employees search for new positions.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls

No PR wants to see a publication shut down – we need more key media on our press lists, not less. Each publication on a PR professional’s press list represents access to a captive audience of readers and any PR who regularly dealt with News of the World will miss the 2.7 million regular readers who bought the paper each week.

A new day for ethical journalism?

Pitching exclusives, leaking out news stories early to get a bigger splash or making off the record comments to beef up a story is par for the course, particularly in consumer PR, and most readers don’t care about the mechanics of how a journalist lands a scoop or scandalous news story. We do have our limits, however.

News of the World went too far by hacking the phones and voicemails of members of the public who were only cast into the public eye because of extreme personal circumstances. We have seen blanket news coverage across all media platforms condemning the actions of News of the World and unless someone has been living under a rock these past few weeks, they are now better educated about the required ethical and moral standards in journalism.

Codes of conduct, privacy guidelines and criminal laws are in place to ensure ethical standards are upheld by the media but PRs, advertisers and consumers also have a job to do. We can no longer turn a blind eye to underhand tactics, such as those used by News of the World and we need to speak up when a media outlet does not live up to our expected standards and ethical codes.

In the middle of a chain reaction?

There is a lot of concern that the problems at News of the World reflect a deeper problem in the newspaper market. Some industry commentators maintain that the closure of the UK’s oldest newspaper is another nail in the coffin for traditional print media.

If a prolific newspaper such as News of the World can fall so spectacularly from grace in such a short space of time, what hope is there for the other magazines, trade publications and newspapers already experiencing increased competition from online channels and social media coupled with the double whammy of falling circulation and declining advertising revenues?

Will the News of the World’s closure trigger a domino effect in the media landscape?

A rose by any other name…

We’ve heard plenty of rumours that News International plans to roll out the Sun as a seven day publication, taking greater advantage of the tabloid’s existing resources. News International already had plans in process to streamline activity across all titles long before the phone hacking scandal broke. Some cynics – or perhaps those in the know? –  feel the news hacking scandal gave Murdoch the perfect opportunity to roll out what everyone is calling ‘The Sun on Sunday’. Hopefully that’s just a working title!

Old habits die hard

Will News of the World readers adopt a sister publication and repackaged version of their favourite newspaper so readily? It is notoriously hard to persuade consumers to switch newspapers, particularly in the well established Sunday market. We can expect a number of direct mail, marketing and advertising campaigns in the weeks to come as rival newspapers battle for a slice of the News of the World’s 2.7 million readers, now left without their weekly fix of scandal, gossip and Z list celebrities.

This tale of back stabbing, dodgy dealings and illicit meetings is the type of story News of the World thrived on – it’s a pity they’re the ones making the headlines this time.

Louise Moran