Broken Is A Premonition Of Life Behind Its Wall

It’s the biggest news day the News Of The World has had in some time – two “exclusive” sports stories, one with allegations about Wayne Rooney’s private life (also claimed “exclusive” by Sunday Mirror), the other linking a fourth Pakistan cricketer with its earlier match-fixing claims.

But you wouldn’t know it from its website, which was broken and inaccessible for about five hours on Sunday…

As its showbiz editor suggests, the effect is a premonition of what might happen when News Of The World starts charging online, rumoured to be from October…



Google (NSDQ: GOOG) News’ top result for “Wayne Rooney” on Sunday morning? Not News Of The World’s story, but a write-up, referencing BBC Radio 5 Live’s own Saturday-night reference of the NOTW story.

After that, equivalent BBC Sport, Mail Online stories, and even the People’s website, are shown most prominently. News Of The World doesn’t figure at all, until mid-page – but it’s not Sunday’s salacious Rooney story; only a critique of his performance in the week’s international football game.

On Twitter, it’s the Sunday Mirror’s story, rather than the News International site’s, which more people are linking to, even though some concede NOTW has “the full story”. The paper is essentially invisible online (along with Wooton’s “exclusive” McFly video and Fearne Cotton gossip).

As for the cricket story, a Google News search for Pakistan cricket brings WalesOnline out on top, followed by a similar host of other rivals from around the world.

Speculation is, News Of The World will put its video exposes at the heart of its paid online strategy. But, while its own exclusive video, showing cricketer Yasir Hameed talking about match fixing, was invisible both on Google News and Sunday morning, Google is nevertheless showing copies of the video aired by Pakistani TV’s Express Tribune, hosted by YouTube.

The NOTW site’s fall-over has had the same effect as charging will – it hasn’t stopped the story getting out; instead, the “exclusive” has fallen in to the hands of countless others, albeit perhaps a watered-down version.

Comfort to News International – if some of the equivalent stories are less detailed, then others are also positively spartan, tip-toeing away from specific mention of the allegations for fear of attracting a lawsuit through repetition. But that will suffice for many readers. It’s not as if the site’s absence has caused this – loss of story ownership has been the unfortunate reality for many a publisher for some time.

We don’t say that with any glee – attempting to save content businesses by restoring absent value is bordering on the admirable, even if one can’t always say the same for NOTW itself. But the challenges are clear to see.

Still; if it follows its stablemate The Times’ strategy, News Of The World will likely care nothing for its own visibility to search engine users when it starts charging anyway, preferring instead to retain only a core of loyal readers.