Tuesday Edition 12/15/09

HANDS ON: Rupert Murdoch may be the king of all media, but he still loves newspapers … and he’s known since his early years in Australia that nothing matters if the product doesn’t sell. Read Roy Greenslade’s Guardian post here, then use this link to read 30+ comments that are a mixture of awe, shoulder-shrugging, and skepticism:

Imagine the scene: a busy newsagent’s shop in west London one morning. A hard-pressed woman behind the counter recognises two smartly dressed men in suits as sales representatives from the newspaper publisher News International. With them is a polite, elderly gentleman she cannot place. But he is the one who asks all the questions.

How many copies of this or that paper do you sell? Are you getting your copies on time? What’s your major problem at the moment? He seems like a nice guy and she answers without hesitation. The two reps smile indulgently in the background. After a couple of minutes, they depart.

She looks a little baffled until one of her regular customers, who happens to have entered the shop as the group left, says to her: “Do you know who that man was?”

“No idea.”

“It was Rupert Murdoch.”

And that, it transpires, was indeed the case. The head of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates had called in to speak to Daxa Solanki, who – with her husband, Amraish – runs Jads newsagents, in Turnham Green.

Murdoch, 78, chairman of the mighty News Corporation, visited several newspaper retailers incognito to gauge the concerns of the people who sell copies of his four Wapping titles, the Times, the Sun, the Sunday Times and the News of the World. The walkabout took place in July, around the time that Murdoch’s British operation took over the delivery of its papers from its former distributors.

A News International spokeswoman confirmed that the media mogul had wanted to see for himself what life was like for newsagents and to understand their problems. “He visited several shops in the west London area,” she said. “He just wanted to know what was happening on the ground.”

Mrs Solanki had few complaints, although she does recall pointing out that News International’s service wasn’t as efficient as the previous wholesaler’s deliveries. But that had proved to be a hiccup: “Things are fine now,” she said. “I was really surprised when my customer told me it was Mr Murdoch. He seemed like such a nice man.”

The Solankis have run their shop for 20 years and sell a lot of papers. They deliver to 250 houses in the Chiswick area, and their casual sale is high too.

Mrs Solanki did mention one major complaint, which had nothing to do with Murdoch’s company: “We get fewer people in the shop ever since the Evening Standard was given away free. Now it’s only available at the tube station along the road, which gets all the trade.”

ONE MORE E&P: Dead mag will publish January edition. [E&P] Also: Aggregator Romenesko killed E&P … uh, no he didn’t. [Temple Talk and E&P]

BRILLIANT ATTACK: The “secret” and brilliant Steve Jobs in a biting exchange with AT&T moronic boss. [Fake Steve]

EMPLOYEE TEXTS: Supreme Court will consider a worker’s right to privacy. [LA Times]

FRIENDSTER LIVES: The social media pioneer (ahead of Facebook) is sold for $100 million. Peter Kafka reports Friendster never actually died and is still popular in the Far East. [Media Memo]

AUSTRALIAN FILTERS: A Democracy cracks down. First they came for the harmful sites, and then… [Mashable]

TRADEMARK SETTLEMENT: In St. Louis, there will be two Globe-Democrats. [STL Today]

DISGUSTING PUBLIC SERVICE: After conditioning New Yorkers to reach for their remotes to avoid the city’s stomach-turning anti-smoking commercials, New York has introduced equally revolting ads aimed at … soda drinkers.

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