Since Rupert Murdoch announced the closure of News International’s controversial Sunday paper, The News of the World, last summer, there has been a gap in the tabloid market. Yes, the ‘red-top’ market has been represented by The Mirror and, of course, the Star, but today saw the launch of a new heavyweight Sunday red-top. Britain’s most-read and most-successful newspaper, the Sun, has launched a new edition.
Murdoch announced the decision to make the popular tabloid run seven days a week. Critics instantly questioned the need for another News International Sunday tabloid, after the controversies of The News of the World. The ‘paper closed after News of the World journalists were arrested as part of the 2011 phone hacking scandal. Considering the scandalous past of The Sun’s sister paper, fears of a Sunday edition are very understandable.
Critics feared that The Sun’s launch on a Sunday was merely a minor rebranding of The News of the World, with just the masthead changing. However, upon opening the first edition this morning, this wasn’t true. Rather than adopting the exact characteristics of the disgraced ‘paper, it clearly has adopted the style and structure of the weekday editions.
Content wise, there were huge questions regarding the ‘scoop’ the Sunday Sun were going to run with on the first edition. Rather than having a scandalous cover story, much associated with The News of the World, The Sun ran with an exclusive interview with Britain’s got Talent judge Amanda Holden. The headline, “My heart stopped for 40 seconds” adopted a more ‘human interest’ angle for the first edition. Despite being a horrible tabloid lead story, it makes a change from the sometimes defamatory headlines we would have seen splashed across the covers of The News of the World.
Surprisingly, I found myself actually genuinely engrossed in a Sun article (There’s clearly a first for everything). The centre spread featured an interview with Oscar nominated actor Gary Oldman, as he spoke of his role as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I don’t know whether I was only so interested as I watched the film last night but, it genuinely got my attention over the television, which is no mean feat.
However, despite some good content, there was some very poor content. I was pained reading the column of Katie Price and genuinely had to laugh at “The Sun says” editorial. I couldn’t bring myself to finish a single article written by Katie Price, even those that were about 200 words long. On the other hand, I read the editorial thoroughly. Quoting the original mission statement from the initial launch of The Sun, the paper outlined its hopes for the future of the paper and its continuing commitment to its readers. Opening with, “welcome to a bright new dawn” the ‘paper seems to realise the mistakes of the past and, here’s hoping, will not make the same mistakes as the past.
The sports coverage is still as high a quality as the weekday editions, bringing excellent football coverage. For me, the pullout Super Goals Plus was the highlight. Bringing 28 pages of match reports, analysis and build up, it must be the most comprehensive football coverage anywhere. Disappointingly, there was little coverage outside the world of football for the sports readership. With no more than a double spread of any other sport, and no analysis of England’s T20 win (that’s a cricket match, for those who didn’t know), the coverage was very targeted. But, The Sun clearly know their target audience, and they like football.
I’m still not convinced that The Sun on Sunday is going to be a success, but I’m sure a significant proportion of The Sun’s readership will stretch the extra 50p a week for the Sunday edition. Murdoch knows his audience and is targeting it well. This launch isn’t just The News of the World with a new masthead and didn’t seem to have the scandalous angle… I wonder how long that will last.