The Sun has made major U-turn over its paywall with the announcement that it will be scraped in an effort to better compete with its rivals.
The majority of the content on The Sun website will be free from 30 November as the News UK publisher moves into the free ad market where rival publications such as Mail Online have found a viable financial alternative to charging monthly subscriptions.
The Sun’s entry into the freemium ad market will significantly ramp up competition among national newspapers that are increasingly growing to depend on revenue from digital media as print sales continue to plummet.
News UK chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, made the announcement to staff this morning (Friday) of the U-turn, which may signal an end to the paywall strategy.
In an email to staff Brooks said she plans to grow the Sun’s audience by making it “predominantly free in the digital world”. The move is understood to be influenced by the Sun’s platform partnerships with Apple News and its desire to increasingly have its articles shared in Facebook Instant Articles.
Brook’s email continued that the company was “in a strong position thanks to the many learnings we bring from the paid-for era” and said that the “recent acquisition of Unruly, and our ongoing collaboration with colleagues at Storyful, further bolsters our position and will play a big role in how we supercharge our digital advertising capabilities.”
Managing editor of Mail Online in the US, Keith Poole, is reportedly being lined up to join the title to help strengthen the team during the transition away from the paywall.
The changes mark an end to the paywall experiment, which was introduced in July 2013. The Sun began relaxing its paywall in July this year when it made a range of articles available for free and saw average daily audience figures increase by around 1 million.
The move is in contrast to comment made by News UK chief marketing officer, Chris Duncan, who previously voiced his opposition to dropping the paywall and warned that publishers’ handing over their content for distribution on social networks was an act of “vanity” because advertising revenue would go to the social platforms rather than the publisher.
The changes from the UK’s biggest selling tabloid will be seen by many within the industry as vindication that paywalls are not a long-term solution to unprecedented fall in print advertising which plummeted 30 per cent this summer.