News of the World Closing

A scandal didn't kill the News Of The World newspaper. It was a shift from old to new media in the Britain of today. The newspaper's death is a harbinger of media in the future.

News of the World Closing
After 168 years and a few too many phone-hacking scandals, News of the World is closing for good.

A scandal didn’t kill the News Of The World newspaper. It was a shift from old to new media in the Britain of today. The newspaper’s death is a harbinger of media in the future.

As the BCBusiness resident journosaur (according to the BCBusiness staff), I thought I should comment on the amazing announcement that Britain’s venerable News Of The World newspaper is closing.

It shows once more how the media is changing around the world.

First, I should say that as a young man kicking around Britain, I fell in love with what most Brits affectionately called “Screws Of The World.”

Every Sunday, you’d pick up your NOTW and be treated to a wonderful and entertaining stew of leers, fears, and beers. It was all trash news mostly involving sex scandals, crime, soccer wars, and the inevitable results of ordinary Brits bellying up to the bar at some pub for far too long.

Throw in lots of pictures of big-breasted young starlets and a token interview to justify the pictures, and News Of The World was the self-indulgence equivalent of really greasy fish and chips that topped off a night of serious drinking.  

Yes, in its 168 years, NOTW knew its audience well: working-class Brits who needed to brighten up their dreary lives by consuming info that let them live vicariously (i.e. sex, crime, sex, general weirdness, sex, and much of that nudge nudge, wink wink kind of humour popularized by the Carry On movies of the 1950s and their later equivalents, Monty Python).

In fact, the Python crew even parodied the NOTW style of news coverage in a famous skit in which a newsreader with nothing to say made sure it sounded good anyway. “No HEADLESS BODIES lined the highway after an accident,” he leered.

Throughout my journalistic career, I used that line to describe a hype job in which there was no news, but lots of noise.

But enough of memory lane. Why is News Of The World closing?

The killing of the rag by owner Rupert Murdoch and family is being attributed to a growing scandal in which journalists hacked into the phones of “newsworthy” people, including victims of some ugly crimes.

That may have been the trigger point, but I suspect in the background is something much larger. Murdoch’s News International empire rarely does anything without an eye to the financial implications, and so is shifting from old media to new media in a rapidly changing world.

By killing News Of The World, Murdoch can consolidate his print products, and put his efforts into other, newer media that are forming an increasing part of its revenue.

News International first signalled its move to new media by buying the social network MySpace several years ago. It recently took a bath on that one, but learned its lessons well.

The media world today is much more electronic and international and, despite its name, News Of The World was very much an old newspaper aimed at a Britain that no longer exists.