MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: News of the World has more on offer than tits and arse

I did something last weekend that I haven't done for a long, long

time. And ... well, it made me feel dirty but it was so enormously

satisfying that I could well be tempted to do it again soon. It took the

Countess of Wessex interview to get me to buy the News of the World. But

like many new readers, I found a paper that was both surprising and

entertaining.



The bogus sheik and the unfurling picture of life down at Rees-Jones

Harkin (not far off your average PR company skeletons, I guess, but how

scandalous to think that a member of our monarchy could be breathing the

same air as a cocaine-taking, homosexual colleague) have been well raked

over. The highlights for me included the comment by Murray Harkin,

Sophie's business partner, that 'The odd line of coke I quite like, but

trying to find it is a nightmare' (the gents' loo at the Grosvenor is

always a good bet, I'm told), and the fact that the pair of supposedly

PR-savvy (and tabloid-savvy) professionals were taken in by a journalist

in a tea towel (with 'souvenir of Wales' printed on it, I hear).



But what the News of the World really ended up with were some tame

comments that would hardly raise an eyebrow within the worlds of

advertising, PR and the media in which the editor, Rebekah Wade, Rees

Jones and Harkin mix.



The truly interesting story behind the story is how this came to be such

an enormous exclusive, a major PR coup for the newspaper (at least with

readers, who were well primed by last weekend; the moral backbone of the

press, however, has hammered Wade for breaking the Press Complaints

Commission code on subterfuge) and a sure-fire sales hiker.



First there was the gift of an official interview from Rees-Jones in

return for not running the revelations from the sheik scam. So the News

of the World got its 'My Edward's Not Gay' headline two weeks ago and a

rather nice exclusive. Next, rival newspapers waded in with their

(inaccurate) versions of the Sheik revelations and whetted all our

appetites with a wonderful display of free publicity for the News of the

World. So by last weekend the fire was burning brightly and even I was

slavering over the paper's follow-up.



No-one who bought the paper to read the transcripts of the original

interview will have been disappointed. But new readers will also have

found a fresher, more dynamic and less sleazily titillating paper than

the one they might remember, although the dreadful Sunday magazine has

none of the flair and wit of the main paper.



It will be interesting to see how sales shaped up, but my bet is a

significant upturn. The real question, though, is whether the News of

the World as a entire package will have been tasty enough to keep some

of those sampling readers hooked into regular purchase. I might just be

one of them - but don't tell anyone.



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