RealTime IT News

Former Express Web Sites to Close Permanently

[London, ENGLAND] The four Web sites that were axed by pornographer Richard Desmond, the new owner of the Daily and Sunday Express newspapers in the U.K., are to go into liquidation, it was reported Tuesday.

Fifty jobs will be lost as a result of the decision to abandon express.co.uk, allaboutparents.com, sportlive.co.uk and www.companyleader.com -- none of which has been fully operational since December.

The four Web sites had been sold by Desmond to SP Investments, a company belonging to his financial adviser Seymour Pierce. For a few weeks, SP Investments went through the motions of looking for a buyer but finally appointed HLB Kidsons to liquidate the sites' assets.

Richard Desmond, publisher of top shelf porn magazines such as "Nude Wives," "Big Ones," and "Asian Babes," purchased Express Newspapers in November from Lord Hollick's United News & Media for US $185 million. Axing the Web sites was one of his first cost-cutting exercises.

However, Desmond may yet come to regret his hasty decision to get rid of the sites -- as most experts agree that in today's media-rich world there are useful synergies to be obtained by linking print and Web publications, especially for national newspapers. For a national U.S. newspaper to axe its Web site would be almost unthinkable.

Despite his protestations to the opposite, Desmond may have more faith in pornography than in straight news reporting. For example, in 1995 he launched Television X: The Fantasy Channel, a subscription-based erotic cable channel that lost money heavily at first. Nonetheless, it was not abandoned and has since become profitable.

For the past few weeks, a plaintive message has greeted readers of express.co.uk.

"We regret to announce that express.co.uk, the website of the Daily Express, has been suspended until further notice for commercial reasons. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Please keep checking the site as we hope to have further news later. Thank you for your messages of support and understanding."

In the meantime, news has been provided from moreover.com, just as it is on hundreds of other sites.

Desmond is known to be unsentimental about any aspect of his business that causes him trouble -- and the sites are reputed to have been costing around US $12 million a year to run. Back in the eighties, Desmond was quick to sell his premium-rate telephone sex lines when BT threatened action over their content.

Since then, Desmond has been steadily climbing towards respectability, publishing lifestyle magazine OK! and later acquiring Express Newspapers. The Web (at least, the respectable Web) will just not be part of the equation in the immediate future.