How important is the row over the Kate Middleton pictures to the future of UK media? To answer that question there's one simple calculation. How many more readers would you gain by printing pictures that show them? A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about the Sun's decision to print the pictures of Prince Harry in his birthday, and how those leaping to the paper's defence were more concerned about future financial viability than principle.
There have been no such appeals to freedom of speech from the UK press this time, but the implications are no less clear. If the French magazine Closer manages to double its 414,000 circulation, as its editors are reportedly hoping, that's about €620,000 extra in circulation revenue a week.
The editors of Italian magazine Chi, which like Closer is owned by former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, is surely hoping its own series of Kate Middleton photos will have a similar impact. Meanwhile the British media is full of impotent rage against the "tawdry" activity of the foreign gutter press. The Kate pictures are available to every UK web user with the ability to use a search engine. How much of that anger is caused by knowing exactly how much revenue they are losing out on while everyone is checking the web to see the images they can't print?
Leveson's internet regulation headaches
The Leveson Inquiry looks set to try to protect the privacy of individuals by legislating against some of the more intrusive habits of the UK media. But the topless photos of the Duchess show how pointless that would be without global regulation of the net, as suggested by Max Mosley.
Newspapers and magazines make money from pictures of celebrities, often not wearing much. By only regulating the actions of UK media, a Leveson Act would would simply stop consumer media here from profiting from invasions of privacy while French and Italian titles snoop on regardles, all the way to the bank, with British browsers looking on regardless.
That isn't a moral high ground many newspaper editors would be happy occupying.
Image via Comrade Foot on Flickr via a Creative Commons licence