Murdoch seeks new start with tamer Sunday tabloid

LONDON (Reuters) – The new Sunday edition of Rupert Murdoch’s British Sun tabloid, to be launched with a huge advertising campaign and a print run of around 3 million this week, is expected to be more family-friendly and less salacious than its predecessor, The News of the World.

Amid the fall-out of a phone-hacking scandal that triggered the arrest of a string of Sun journalists, industry insiders believe The Sun on Sunday, whose launch is being personally led by Murdoch himself, looks likely to be heavier on fashion and football and lighter on the sex and scandal for which The News of the World was renowned.

Before it was ignominiously closed down last year The News of the World, founded in 1843, wallowed in muck-raking sensationalism designed to amuse and shock in equal measure.

Its fondness for page one headlines packed with puns and sexual innuendo was legendary. A couple of its more memorable headlines included “Andrew and the Sex Slave Beast” and “My Big Fat Gypsy Divorce at Just 19.”

In contrast, The Sun typically leads on more mainstream news stories with irreverent front-page headlines such as “Bin Bagged” when Osama bin Laden was killed.

David Mulrenan, head of UK press at media buyer ZenithOptimedia, told Reuters the new Sun on Sunday was likely to be a much tamer beast than its defunct predecessor.

“It’s going to be a lot less salacious than The News of the World, and probably open up a lot more of the family market,” he said.

He said The Sun on Sunday would go some way to filling the gap in the Sunday market, and that advertisers who pulled out last year over the revelation that The News of the World had hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler were likely to pile into The Sun on Sunday at its launch.

Murdoch penned a tweet yesterday reflecting his optimism about the new title that boasted: “We’re completely sold out for advertising!”

The speed at which the new paper is being rolled out – it was announced only six days before its scheduled first appearance on newsstands – came as a shock to rivals, advertisers and even the staff. It will launch at a price of 50 pence (78 cents), undercutting rivals. The price of the Saturday edition will also be cut to 50 pence from 60 pence.

“The key thing for them will be the audience because that is the way they make their money, they’re less reliant on advertising,” Alun Lucas at media buyer MEC Manchester told Reuters. “So they’ll be aggressive in recruiting the readers and then the advertisers will follow.”

The launch will pose a host of challenges both within the company and for rivals and advertisers, compounded by the fact it is happening at such a frantic pace.

How, for instance, will staff working across the seven-day title manage to reserve exclusive stories for Sunday in the way that The News of the World used to do, by holing up sources in safe houses or hotels for days before publication to keep them from talking to other journalists?

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