As the 1950s drew to a close Rupert Murdoch remained a small time emerging newspaper publisher in Australia with no representation in Sydney, the biggest city in the country.
The big two publishers in Sydney behaved like a cartel and were determined to keep out any outsiders looking to enter their lucrative market. Murdoch made several attempts in vain but as 1960 beckoned his luck started to change. A publisher serving mainly the outskirts of Sydney was willing to sell and Murdoch used a friend to make a bid keeping the real identity of the person behind it a secret until the deal was sealed. Cumberland Newspapers, the group he purchased distributed about 400,000 newspapers weekly in the suburbs. It was not exactly the kind of thing he was looking for but at least it gave him a foothold into Sydney. Early in 1960 his big break came. The Mirror newspapers were up for sale. This consisted of an evening daily and a Sunday newspaper published in the heart of Sydney. It also gave him printing plants in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
It is said that Murdoch did a jig when the deal went through and could not stop telephoning his close friends in excitement. This was an important step in his bid to establish himself as a major newspaper publisher in Australia. It marked the moment when he joined the big leagues proper.
On entry into this market, he was determined to be the top circulating newspaper in Sydney. Murdoch’s impact was felt almost immediately. Sensationalism and vulgarity became the trade mark of the Sunday Mirror. PROWLER STRIPS WOMAN NAKED. BANNED SEX BOOKS, FREE FOR SOME. GANG RAPES GIRL 10. WHIPPING FOR HUSBAND-WIFE’S RAGE. WHY MY SON IS A KILLER-MOTHER’S STORY. GIRL 13 RAPED 100 YARDS FROM HOME.
The daily was not much different although an effort was made to cover plenty of politics and to write intelligent editorials.
But his efforts did not stop there. He was constantly searching for promotions to boost sales. For instance he serialized new books. Circulation and profits climbed steadily.
But Murdoch’s success was not just in the content of his newspapers and in promoting them. One of the key things is that he understood the newspaper business much more than most people understood it. Many times his rivals underestimated him and dismissed him as a publisher of trashy articles for the masses. But behind that facade was a very well run business with a management system that worked.
For instance there was the Blue Book. Other newspaper groups had monthly reports, Murdoch’s blue book was weekly. Every week every property owned by Murdoch had to send in their figures to him. That meant that if there was any problem developing (e.g. increase in costs in a certain area, circulation drops etc) it was noticed right away.
To this day these weekly figures still come to Murdoch weekly from all over the world.
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