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In a newsagents in Paisley – just outside of Glasgow – last Saturday, a fascinating conversation took place between Rupert Murdoch and the shop’s owner, Des Barr.
The News UK proprietor is the most recognisable name, but to those within the newstrade, Mr Barr needs little introduction.
If you want a sensible view from a proactive retailer who continues to invest in his core business of shifting thousands of copies of news and magazines each day, you ring Des.
That goes not only for the trade press, but also wholesalers and publishers who want some insight.
And so it was that Mr Murdoch visited as part of a tour to gauge the mood of voters ahead of the referendum on independence.
His party included editor of The Sun David Dinsmore, his Scottish counterpart Gordon Smart and Mr Murdoch’s son Lachlan, co-chairman of News UK parent company News Corp.
The 15-minute visit was alluded to in a call between Mr Dinsmore and Mr Barr the previous Thursday but there was little to hint that Mr Murdoch would be in tow.
How was Mr Barr likely to vote? What was the mood among his customers? Would his paperboys be voting?
Mr Barr was giving little away – like religion and football, the referendum has been a taboo subject at Sinclair Barr Newsagents and many others in Scotland.
It wasn’t a wasted trip, though, for the tycoon who show shows little sign of slowing at the age of 83.
Despite resigning as a News UK director in 2012, he still clearly has a keen interest in day-to-day affairs.
How many copies of The Sun did Mr Barr sell? What about The Times? What about competitor titles?
“He asked me how Menzies was doing and I said I think, on the whole, we get a decent service,” says Mr Barr.
“It was clear that the referendum was why he was here. He asked all the right questions and was very humble.”
In fact, perhaps the most interesting bit of insight came from Mr Murdoch himself.
When the chat was turned round to the thorny issue of The Sun’s Page 3 – the subject of some ire from campaigners – Mr Barr said he believed that more explicit material was available within a couple of clicks on a phone or computer.
Mr Murdoch’s response? He smiled and said: “I think we all like a bit of glamour in our lives.”
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