Sun on Sunday faces battle to win back readers


Sun on Sunday faces battle to win back readers

Sun on Sunday faces battle to win back readers

Friday, February 24, 2012
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The announcement on the imminent arrival of the new Sunday tabloid.

LONDON: Rupert Murdoch launches his new Sun on Sunday tabloid in Britain this weekend, but faces a battle to win over the readers lost when he shut his scandal-hit News of the World last year.


The 80-year-old media baron announced the new title just a week before publication and is clearly relishing the chance to confound his critics by plunging back into the British weekly tabloid market.


The wily tycoon also threatened to spark a price war by selling it for far less than its current rivals, and gleefully announced on Twitter: "More good Sun news. We're completely sold out for advertising!"


However, overall Sunday newspaper sales have nosedived since the News of the World was shut down in July over the phone-hacking scandal, and the tabloid's successor faces a stiff test in a highly competitive, shrinking market.


The News of the World's June 2011 average sales were 2.67 million and while half of those readers have drifted off to other papers, 1.3 million have simply vanished from the market altogether, industry figures show.


The Sunday tabloid market dropped from sales of seven million in June 2011 to 5.7 million in January, and every national Sunday title saw a month-on-month circulation drop in December.


Roy Greenslade, a former Daily Mirror editor and a 1980s executive on The Sun who is now a journalism lecturer, said The Sun's red-top rivals should beware.


They "face a circulation war against the world's shrewdest newspaper magnate with an unprecedented track record in risking all to turn potential defeat into victory", he wrote in a column for London's Evening Standard


Murdoch fired his opening salvo on Thursday, announcing that the new title would be available at just half the cost of its rivals.


The News of the World cost one pound ($1.57, 1.18 euros), the same cover price as tabloid rivals the Sunday Mirror and The People, but the new paper this weekend will go on sale for just 50 pence.


The News of the World had been comfortably Britain's biggest-selling weekly -- a position now held by The Mail on Sunday, which shifts 1.9 million copies at a cover price of £1.50.


Murdoch's benchmark for success could be topping that figure, or matching The Sun's average daily circulation of 2.75 million.


The launch announcement last week followed the arrest of a number of Sun journalists on suspicion of bribing public officials.


"There won't be anybody in this country who doesn't know that the Sun on Sunday is appearing and people will give it a shot, I'm sure of it," media strategy analyst Claire Enders told BBC radio.


"Particularly with the reduced cover price and a very splashy start. It's kind of a popular event."


The Sun's editor Dominic Mohan is in charge of the new title and many staff are working seven days a week to put it out, including a sprinkling of the 200 people who lost their jobs when the News of the World went under.


Mohan said the new title was a "truly historic moment" in newspaper publishing.


"The Sun's future can now be reshaped as a unique seven-day proposition in both print and digital," he said.

Murdoch is staying in London to take command of the launch.


Some commentators suspect he may have fancied the idea of a seven-day publication for some time, especially in an age when newspapers are expanding their Internet arms.


Plans for seven-day working were floated before the News of the World shut and Sun on Sunday trademarks and domain names were soon registered afterwards.


The News of the World lived on its sensational scoops and scandals.


The 168-year-old title had a long history of breaking stories that made headlines worldwide and was known for hard-hitting investigations, exposing wrongdoing, campaigning, and reams of celebrity tittle-tattle.


Teasers for the new paper promise "your super Sun will be brimming with tasty treats this Sunday -- from fashion tips to a feast of showbiz gossip".


The new edition "will be bulging with brilliant news, table-topping sports coverage, fascinating features and real life stories."


Some observers predict though that the new paper will be cowed by the experience of its predecessor, playing it too safe to secure big agenda-setting exclusives.


"It is not the News of the World reborn," Greenslade wrote.


"The sleaze element -- the intrusive and sordid kiss-and-tells, for example -- will not be there. Page three will not feature a topless model.


"We can expect instead a breezier Sun-alike formula, with the accent on celebrity, sport and those kinds of offbeat news stories that enable sub-editors to write memorable headlines."