Marketing_Guy - 9:36 am on Feb 26, 2013 (gmt 0)
It wasn't just the paid links (and to be fair it could have been because there were LOADS of them with *very* specific anchor text) - they have 20k+ pages of rubbish content - basically the same page targeting every town / city location in the UK.
And they've known this was coming for a while - they started trying to take down their links over a month ago, which is why some bloggers got dragged into this.
What they were doing was large scale manipulation for a long time. Still banned in the UK FYI.
The newspapers that were PR0'd were part of a handful of newspaper groups (there were 2 Scottish newspaper groups that had their entire network PR0'd, probably accounting for 80-90% of the local press in Scotland). These were huge link networks who were selling "advertorials" purely for SEO purposes (and also one of the networks had over 100k+ pages of spam content targeting local terms on it's primary domain - a broadsheet newspaper - up until a year ago).
A hell of a lot of spam, on a large scale, leveraging "authority" sites. A penalty was long overdue.
Although it's worth noting that newspaper's revenue models have suffered over the past decade (and Adsense isn't exactly a high return), so it's no wonder they looked at other methods of making money.
This is the same industry that hacked the phone of a murdered kid - not exactly a high standard of ethics.