UPDATE Phone hacking scandal – social media campaign shuts down News of the World

7th July 2011

Social media appears to have empowered those who are angered by allegations that the newspaper The News of the World hacked into the voicemail of a murdered 13-year-old girl.

The Guardian newspaper reported in its live blog that James Murdoch, chief executive of New International confirmed this Sunday's News of the World will be the last issu.

"Colin Myler will edit final edition and all the News of the World revenue will go to good causes, James Murdoch says in his statement."

The decision to close the newspaper: and publish its sister publication The Sun seven days a week instead of six, was being heralded as a victory for users of social media.

The Financial Times (paywall) quotes one advertising executive, who declined to be named, as saying the company they worked for was getting inundated with emails, partly because of what appeared to be co-ordinated campaigns to boycott the News of the World on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

A planned takeover by News Corporation, the parent company of News International which publishes the News of the World, of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB has also been targeted.

Campaigning group 38 Degrees, has launched a petition called "No time to give Murdoch more power" which has attracted 70,000 signatures while Liberal Conspiracy, has also launched a joint campaign across blogs and Facebook to target News of the World advertisers.

On the Evening Standard website Gideon Spanier says the decision by big-name advertisers to pull out of Rupert Murdoch's News of the World after the phone-hacking scandal is "a powerful illustration of how consumers and pressure groups now use social media to put pressure on brands".

He points out: "For advertising clients the fear 10 years ago was of demonstrations outside the company's office. Now consumers can do it all from their mobile phones and laptops."

However for many advertisers pulling out of a deal with the News of the World, with its near-three million circulation, is a huge dilemma.

One advertiser tells Spanier: "I've got a client who can put on £100,000 in sales on a Sunday with an ad in the News of the World. So it's wiping £100,000 off turnover to cancel an ad."

Most agencies expect the boycott to only last a couple of weeks but a full-page ad in the News of the World is rumoured to cost £35,000, so shockwaves are already reverberating.

Investors in BSkyB, which News Corp, parent company of the News of the World, is trying to take over, were last down 6p at 839p, while on Wall Street, News Corp's shareholders, which includes US pension funds, will be furious, adds Spanier.

CNN's report mentions that parenting website Mumsnet has pulled an advertising campaign for Sky, which is part of Murdoch's media empire, from its website — at a cost of some £20,000 to £30,000 to itself — "as members who are pretty much unanimously shocked and disgusted by the News of the World's actions in hacking Milly Dowler's phone thought it incongruous that Mumsnet was carrying advertising for Sky at the present time."

The UK version of the Huffington Post is publishing live updates on the story.   

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