Taunting by Numbers

For a big-picture look at the knock-down, drag-out battles between the New York Post and the New York Daily News, check out Ken Auletta’s magnificent book Backstory: Inside the Business of News. For a humorous slice of that big picture, walk down West 33rd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues in New York.

That’s where the News is headquartered. It’s also where you’ll see the Post billboard shown here—designed to taunt News staffers about the Post’s recent circulation gains. “Go ahead and stare. They’re real,” the ad says of the figures. (News circ is currently around 730,000.)

Sources said the idea for the ad came directly from Lachlan Murdoch, publisher of the Post and son of Rupert Murdoch, who runs the News Corp. empire. Executives at Merkley + Partners, which did the ad, declined to comment, but a source there gleefully likens the skirmish to the battles between Coke and Pepsi or MCI and AT&T. (It also recalls Fox News’ taunting of CNN on a billboard in Atlanta.) “This is street theater, and there is nothing more fun than that,” the source says. “Every time the [News] employees go into work, every day they have to look at this thing.”

“The Post is having a sense of humor,” says a rep for the paper.

The Post has the space for the year, and more executions are expected. Meanwhile, the News is said to be trying to buy space on the block to retaliate.