Lessons From The Rise And Fall Of “News Of The World”

This weekend, the unthinkable will happen: the British tabloid “News of the World” will be shut down after 168 years. This follows an outrageous hacking scandal. So what can we learn?

The first lesson is that if it could happen to Rupert Murdoch, then it can also happen to you. He is the most powerful man in world media, yet even he couldn’t hide the fact that what his journalists did was sickening. Today a lot of social media campaigns thrive on generating a database of user information, but make sure your information is gained in the right way. “News of the World” got its information from hacking into the voicemail of victims of murder and terrorism, and your media should never stoop that low.

The second lesson is that regardless of how big your customer base is, you can lose it all in the blink of an eye if you offend your loyal followers. “News of the World” had the largest number of readers among all English newspapers on the planet, yet it was abandoned by people whose grandfathers and their grandfathers’ grandfathers had supported it over the generations.

Thirdly, this scandal proves that your organization’s reputation can be dragged through the mud by the actions of just a few individuals. “News of the World” had thousands of hardworking and honest employees, but nobody will remember them now.

Fourthly, your organization’s biggest threat isn’t from your biggest competitor, but from your own internal weaknesses. It’s sad that “News of the World” could survive two World Wars, the Great Depression, numerous recessions and countless different governments, only to be brought down by the greed of a few individuals seeking promotions and fame. So remember that your organization is only as strong as its weakest link.

Another surprising lesson here is that advertisers are terrified of customers’ opinions. “News of the World” had advertisers who were still willing to support it, yet they pulled their funding away. Why? Because they were terrified that in the eyes of their customers, they would be seen to be supporting disgusting, shameless and unpatriotic acts. So remember that for you to lose your biggest client, you don’t even have to offend that client – you only have to offend that client’s customers.

It remains to be seen what move Rupert Murdoch is plotting next. He certainly has enough billions to start basically the same tabloid under a different name. But the biggest lesson he has learned is that when you are in media, you should generate buzz and headlines for your clients, but never for yourself…