Sun on Sunday: The PR perspective on the Sunday tabloid war
Kathryn Ager, associate director at Grayling, casts her eye over the major tabloid battle that will get underway this weekend when The Sun rises on Sunday.
There’s no doubt that the Sun on Sunday will have a major impact on the media landscape. The Sunday Mirror and Daily Star on Sunday were the biggest winners following the demise of the News of the World in 2011. Figures released by the National Readership Survey show that of the NOTW’s readers – 11% migrated to the Mail on Sunday, 16% to the Sunday Mirror and 4.3m stopped reading a Sunday newspaper altogether.
Certainly the Mail on Sunday appeared unconcerned until now – when a series of advertorials promoting Sunday’s edition appeared prominently across major newspapers. Other Sunday tabloids are competing aggressively for market share by offering discounted cover prices this weekend. They may also be asking themselves whether they have done enough over the past few months to guarantee the loyalty of their readers. While this Sunday many titles will see a drop in circulation, what’s more interesting will be to consider the long term impact of any decline.
The first edition of the Sun on Sunday will no doubt see a flurry of new customers - many of whom will be PRs and others working in the media – as people flock to see how Murdoch has fashioned the first edition. No doubt the paper will need to demonstrate a distinctive and persuasive personality in order to capture existing Sun readers, ex NOTW readers and a potentially new audience.
News International has been careful to position the paper as an extension of the Sun, rather than a replacement of its controversial and tainted former sister title. Clearly it plans to entice readers away from other titles by offering a new, family focused content – without some of its trademark features, such as Page 3 girls.
The other thorny issue is how much demand there is for newspapers in a digital age. It is rare that Sunday papers break news before a story appears online (think dominance of Twitter especially in relation to celebrity stories) although it could be argued the NOTW was the exception to this rule. Most Sunday newspapers now pride themselves on a features-led approach, offering in-depth analysis and comment on the stories of the week. If the Sun on Sunday takes on any attributes of its old stablemate it’s most likely to be the area of investigative reporting, where it will have the resources and clout to break major stories – albeit within a climate of increased media propriety.
So is there a place for the Sun on Sunday? As PR professionals of course we welcome it – as it presents a wealth of new opportunities for our clients. Advertisers have also been quick to jump in bed with the paper with almost the same speed at which they withdrew their support for the NOTW last July. The Sun will rise for Murdoch on Sunday demonstrating his resilience and I for one look forward to reading it. Will the paper take back the NOTW’s crown as the best selling Sunday newspaper? Only time will tell…