News of the World rivals race to scoop advertising windfalls

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The Independent Online

The News of the World's newspaper rivals have actively targeted advertisers that pulled spending as the phone-hacking scandal intensifies, as they look to profit from the demise of the 168-year old tabloid.

Trinity Mirror's advertising staff were ordered to hit the phones as soon as the news of the paper's demise emerged. Earlier in the day Associated Newspapers staff were emailing companies that had pulled advertising from its rival to secure more advertising for this week's edition of The Mail on Sunday.

Companies have been pulling advertising from the News of the World in the wake of allegations that its journalists hacked the phone of the murdered teenager Milly Dowler. The exodus culminated yesterday as James Murdoch, chairman of the tabloid's parent company, News International, announced that all advertising had been pulled for the next edition, which would also be its last.

Associated Newspapers, and Trinity Mirror, which owns the Mirror titles, acted quickly to snap up potential additional advertising revenues. The bump may only be temporary, however, amid speculation that The Sun would become a seven-day operation.

Associated's advertising staff pitched to potential customers in an email that said: "In light of the public outcry with the News of the World and also hints that key advertisers such as yourselves may be pulling away – is there anything we can do to support you this coming weekend in terms of copy?"

It added that should the company "want to follow public opinion and boycott the News of the World completely we can work with you".

One insider at a company that pulled advertising from the News International title said it had been contacted by Associated and Trinity: "They see it as a huge opportunity." It is unclear whether sales staff at the Express titles have followed a similar strategy.

Trinity's shareholders were similarly euphoric, with the share price gaining 14 per cent this week amid news of its rival's mounting troubles. The share price rise came as one analyst slapped a "buy" recommendation on the stock. Alex DeGroote said the "very negative advertiser response to News of the World" would be a "possible source of advertising and circulation market share". The Sunday Mirror and The People sell about 1.5 million a week in total, and The Mail on Sunday sells about 1.8 million. The News of the World circulation was about 2.6 million.

Before the dramatic news that the paper was to pull all advertising and close, a series of companies announced they had pulled their campaigns. Among the most high-profile were the mobile phone giant O2 and cable group Virgin Media.

A spokesman for Virgin said yesterday that the company had attempted to pull an insert from the magazine but it had already been printed and sealed. Beyond that "we have decided we will not be placing any advertising in the News of the World until we have further clarity on the details surrounding the investigation".