A former tabloid reporter was recruited by the News of the World (NotW) to use his phone hacking skills and produce "big exclusive stories cheaply", the hacking trial heard today.
Dan Evans told the Old Bailey about the "kerching moment" during an interview with then editor Andy Coulson which got him the job on the now defunct Sunday newspaper.
It was the third NotW approach to the The Sunday Mirror journalist in 2004, initiated by former colleague James Weatherup, who had left to become news editor there.
Mr Evans, 38, had initially resisted his overtures because he did not want to be Mr Weatherup's "pet phone hacker", he said.
Recalling Mr Weatherup's leaving do, Mr Evans said: " James (Weatherup) was giving his speech and there was a lot of heckling in the crowd and something came up with sourcing stories, and I remember (a NotW journalist) shouting in a knowing way: 'I don't know why people don't just change their f****** voicemail pins.''"
Asked by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC what his job at the Sunday Mirror was, Mr Evans said: "I was a news reporter. Principally I was tasked with covering news events, investigations, undercover work, latterly with hacking people's voicemail."
Mr Evans told the jury that he was involved in hacking at the Sunday Mirror for about a year and a half from 2003 when he was given a staff job, but it had been going on before that.
He went on to describe the meeting about joining the NotW with Coulson at a London hotel.
"I told him about my background, the sort of stories I had been doing. Almost the sort of stuff I had been through before.
"I got onto voicemails and interception and I told him I had a lot of commercially sensitive data in my head and how things worked at the Sunday Mirror and I could bring him big exclusive stories cheaply, which was the kerching moment. 'Bring exclusive stories cheaply' equals job."
One way to bring in exclusive stories cheaply was to listen to someone's voicemails and work out who they were having a relationship with, he said.
That would "shift units from supermarket shelves", Mr Evans said.
Mr Evans was offered the job the same day and he started at NotW on January 5 2005 on a salary of £ 53,000.
On his first day, he came armed with a suggestion for an investigative story about a soldier selling a Browning gun.
Instead he was taken into a meeting room and handed a contacts list by a NotW journalist, who cannot be named, the court heard.
Among the names on the list shown to the jury were: Heather McCartney, Esther Rantzen, Chris Evans, Ed Balls, Ronnie Biggs, Elle Macpherson, the father of soap star Jessie Wallace, Michael Parkinson, John Leslie, Geri Halliwell and Michael Jackson.
Mr Evans said he was rather "crestfallen" at being given the task. Asked what that task was, he said: "(The journalist) wanted me to hack the interesting names on there."
He told the court that he would hack phones "probably most days" while at the News of the World, and that he had accessed voicemails more than 1,000 times.
He claimed that the newspaper used a company that could provide personal information including phone numbers, credit activity, telephone bills, medical and tax records within three hours.
Most of the NotW features department's budget went on paying for stories like kiss and tells, Mr Evans told the jury.
He said: "Dark arts were applied to generate leads and tips which would often be locked down with the aid of a cheque book."
The court heard that Evans has already admitted conspiracy to hack phones at the Sunday Mirror between February 2003 and January 2005, and the same offence at the News of the World between April 2004 and June 2010.
He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between January 2008 and June 2010, and perverting the course of justice by giving a false statement in High Court proceedings.
Coulson, 46, of Charing, Kent, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire, and former NotW managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, of Woodford Green, Essex, deny conspiring to hack phones between 2000 and 2006
Coulson also denies two counts of conspiring with former NotW royal editor Clive Goodman, 56, of Addlestone, Surrey, and others to commit misconduct in a public office.
All seven defendants in the case deny the charges against them.
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.