10 years on: The Return of Britains Biggest Newspaper: News of the World

It was one of Britains biggest selling newspapers, making its mark shocking the world with sensational headlines, born with a desire  to be the first witch a scoop, a newspaper living on the edge to continually feed the readerships desire for explosive news,

At its peak, it was the highest selling English language newspaper in the world. In terms of the brand and circulation it was the king of the Sunday tabloids. It was the biggest red top newspaper in the news agent with a reputation to match.

The Vision that made Britains biggest selling Newspaper

John Browne Bell worked on the theory of the types of news people wanted to read, crime, sensationalism and vice. a format that in the most part would remain part of the winning formula of News of the World newspaper for 168 years. Belle sold the paper he created to Henry Lascelles Carr in the early 1890s. Under the Carr’s the paper continued to be distributed as a broadsheet, peaking in circulation in the late 1940s and 1950s to just below an average circulation of 8 million readers.

The Murdoch Years

The Carr’s would hold onto the paper for 80 years before selling up to Rupert Murdoch in 1969.

It was not until the early 1980’s a reorganised News Corp would shake things around and turn the paper into a tabloid Sunday red top.

Though circulation figures where no where near the hey day of British newspaper publishing, it remained the countries biggest selling Sunday paper.

News of the World – Your Type of Story

The paper was synonymous for its celebrity-based scoops and investigative expose pieces. Taking Belles original paper focus to another level, News Of The World market was laser focused on providing celebrity gossips and scoops, celebrity takes downs covering areas on what the paper considered in the public interest, drugs and involvement with other news worthy activities. As with Belles idea Crime and law breakers also became a focus.

Many of the scoops involved under cover reporters, often spending months in disguise, surveillance video and the like. There was allot of good, and fair to say not so good, depending which side of the fence you happen to be on of course. The not so good came tumbling into the public conscious in the guise of some of the methods used to obtain leads, and one such method, referred to as phone hacking captured the publics attention.

Phone Hacking and the Leveson enquiry

In short, the newspaper business is based on publishing stories and news, everything from the weather to celebrity gossip. Scoops sell papers, being first with the news sells papers, inside information sells papers. That’s commercial intent, on the flip side the public read this stuff, that is the demand side, simple economics of Supply and Demand. The more demand the more pressure for the commercial organisation to be in the position to meet it,

The News of The World Newspaper was one of the best known in this type of genere of news coverage, with its under cover journalism, stings, scoops and other stories. Phone Hacking came up as a method used by some to generate lead ideas. The process involves hacking someone’s mobile phone voice mail box. Some spark had the idea, ‘I wonder how many folks change the default password’, the answer being surprisingly not that many. Hacking the voicemail enabled unauthorised persons to listen to the voice mail contents of the target user.

Now, you and I would consider, what value is that, ‘I’ll be home in 20 minutes or put the kettle on’. Well it seems there was some benefit in the practice as the phone hacking scandal uncovered the broad range of targets, being celebrities, politicians. The general public might have shrugged their shoulders at those targets, but then it was uncovered other more questionable non celebrity targets where also targeted, and that really was the end of it. It was this area that ultimately led to the reaction of News Corp closing the 168 year old newspaper along with other high profile resignations.

Hacking phones was not behind every story published by the newspaper, at the time of the closure there were many a journalist who had nothing to do with the practice. Damage limitation, ending something that had been so badly burned by the scandal may have been the only option, but with it the loss of the paper read by over 2 million per week.

What happened to the 2.6 million News of The World readers – The Battle of the Sundays

It is true, that at the time of the papers closure the News of the World had a weekly circulation of 2,606,397. Not forgetting the paper was only published on Sundays.

When the paper disappeared from the racks, what impact did this have? The paper was a Conservative leaning paper with a specific target audience. Back in 2011 the Sunday circulation figures looked like this:

News of the World02,789,560-2,789,560
The Mail on Sunday1,032,8701,958,083-925,213
Sunday Mirror431,4191,092,816-661,397
The Sunday Times712,2911,039,371-327,080
Sunday Express280,684550,269-269,585
The Sunday Telegraph278,558527,742-249,184
The Sunday People159,836500,866-341,030
Sunday Mail123,755366,325-242,570
Sunday Post107,336317,896-210,560
Daily Star Sunday201,969316,712-114,743
The Observer163,694314,164-150,470
Independent on Sunday0152,561-152,561
The Sun on Sunday1,178,68701,178,687

With the demise of circulation figures across the newspaper publishing industry there is no direct correlation to which publication scooped the 2.6 million weekly readers of the paper. The sister paper to the News of the World, ‘The Sun,’ launched the ‘Sun on Sunday’.

What if the News of the World was around during the Brexit debate, the current pandemic

Did we loose a voice when this paper disappeared from the shelf? It is true the paper served a certain part of the publics desire for particular type of news story. Putting aside any unlawful methods used to get a scoop by some. The paper was not based on short clip voice mail messages. It is a side story to the overall story of 168 years of publishing.

Which is where I pitch this idea, what ever the way you may have voted in the Brexit referendum, you cannot deny, the government threw the kitchen sink at the remain campaign. Project fear and all the rest of it. Where would News of the World parked its tanks on the biggest decision in the nations peace time history. I for one think some under cover expose journalism by this paper could have provided an interesting narrative into the overall conversation.

The same could be said today, you could almost see the paper planting under cover journalists in the procurement process of PPE and the rest,

What do you think, love to hear your views. I do not agree with the methods used, and if the end result of such activities someone falls on the sword, but the paper is not the sum of its parts and the parts change. It’s been a decade since the News of the World stopped the printing press, is there any chance the rollers will start again any time soon, Not sure about that.


Wapping, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, England, United Kingdom

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