Thursday, 12 January 2012

Scoops and Sales

MAIL on Sunday editor Peter Wright delivered valuable information to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday when he revealed that exclusive scoops do not translate into increased sales.
It is important for Leveson to seize this point to eliminate any suspicion that editors are tempted to push against the boundaries of truth and profit from their inaccuracies.
I can think of many times on the News of the World when we broke stories which were followed around the world yet resulted in disappointing sales.
One of our biggest stories of the 1990s was when we exposed Jeffrey Archer for fabricating his alibi during the Monica Coughlan libel trial.
The investigation led to Archer’s jailing and a string of awards.
Sales flatlined.
Weeks of work and thousands of pounds went into exposing the first scandal of the supposedly squeaky clean Labour government who promised to rid politics of the sleaze which had dogged the Major years.
Within weeks of being elected in 1997, we revealed that the new Foreign Secretary Robin Cook was having an affair with his secretary and brought them crashing down from the moral high ground.
Sales dipped.
Editors realise that core sales are governed by reader loyalty and readers aren’t blown about from newspaper to newspaper according to the daily news agenda.
They tend to pick a paper for its general waft and weft and stick with it.
When an editor is sizing up the importance of a story and whether it should hit the front page, he isn’t thinking of how many sales it will generate and the extra revenue it will pull in.
His mindset is much more prosaic. He is thinking, “Is this a good story?”
Ken Loach said much the same thing yesterday about film directors. They don’t make films to make money. They are artists who make films for their own enjoyment.
The same can be said for editors. They are journalists who print stories which excite them.
And if they make money for their film studio or proprietor, it is because they are particularly good at their craft.


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