NI tries to curb advertising exodus at remaining papers

News International has sent letters to some of its largest advertisers to prevent an exodus to rival publications, some of whom have this week claimed a large rise in sales following the closure of the News of the World.

This came as James Murdoch told yesterday's committee hearing that there were "no immediate plans" to launch another Sunday tabloid to replace the News of the World. He added: "We leave those options open. It is not an immediate priority."

Following public outrage over the allegations that the News of the World hacked the phone of murdered teenager Millie Dowler, a string of advertisers pulled spending from News International's Sunday tabloid. As the scandal rumbles on, Rupert Murdoch moved to head off further losses from The Sun and The Times titles.

He wrote: "As a major advertising investor in our newspapers, I wanted to write to you personally to state how deeply sorry we are for the wrongdoing committed at the paper." He added: "I want to reassure you that we are taking concrete steps to resolve these issues."

Ford was the first to pull marketing from the News of the World, saying it cared about "the standards" of those it deals with, followed by companies including Halifax and the Co-op, which hastened the title's demise.

Unofficial circulation figures showed that the red top's rivals benefited last Sunday. It is understood that the Sunday Mirror sold over 800,000 more copies than usual, taking its circulation to 1.9 million, while The People was up 85 per cent to 900,000. One marketing executive said the Daily Star Sunday more than tripled circulation to over 1.1 million, although added "they had hoped for more". The Mail on Sunday rose from 1.9 million to 2.2 million, according to industry sources.

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