Houllier's loss is Echo's gain

A string of football exclusives has helped the Liverpool Echo put on sales consistently for the first time in more than a year.

In common with nearly all big-city evening papers, the Echo has been shedding circulation at a rate of around 2.5 per cent annually.

But the departure of Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier and news that Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra wanted to buy a stake in the club have helped boost sales.

On May 11, the Echo (ABC 135,845) splashed with the exclusive news that local businessman Steve Morgan had launched a rival bid to buy a stake in the club.

The paper also ran a reader poll which showed 87 per cent favouring Morgan over Shinawatra, which was widely followed up on TV and in the national press.

On May 24 the Echo was first again when it revealed that Houllier was leaving Liverpool.

Sports editor John Thompson was invited to the club in the morning, enabling the Echo to reveal exclusively in its first midday edition that Houllier was leaving. Thompson was then given an interview and photo opportunity with Houllier on the pitch of Anfield which made the Echo’s second edition in the early afternoon.

The paper had another scoop on Wednesday, May 26, when it revealed that Valencia manager Rafael Benitez was set to replace Houllier.

Assistant editor Rob Irvine said: “Our paper was out before the club had even made its announcement to the rest of the press that Houllier was leaving. The initial feedback is that sales were very strong. It’s been down to the hard work and good contacts of sports editor John Thompson and Liverpool reporter Chris Bascombe.

“Any peak in circulation for us tends to be associated with football – it’s a major driving force for sales. It’s so important for us to be first with Liverpool and Everton because we are going head to head with the nationals.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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