The Sun's paywall rises

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The Sun+

(This post will be updated as I find other interesting stuff to add.)

Sarah Marshall has made her notes from the Sun+ briefing public. Of note:

“We are not becoming digital-first – we sell an awful lot of newspapers every day,” says Derek. And with the coupons in the paper, “if you are a regular Sun reader you never pay for Goals”. And they have the white van driver in mind. They have a smartphone in their pocket. They can scan the code below the match report in the paper and can watch Goals.

Interesting. That suggests a primarily defensive move – use digital to shore up print sales. Could be a good short- to medium-term strategy.

You “accept” that web traffic will drop, says Mike. 32 million in July. But there’s not a lot of value in the casual reader. Most interested in the really engaged reader. “If you get off on volume metrics it’s exciting, but not of much value to the business.”

Or, as a metrics-specialist friend of mine once said: HITS stands for How Idiots Track Success.

Update 1: Sarah has now posted her full report of the Sun+ briefing. Of note:

The Sun has also hired “key columnists” and “bloggers”. The bloggers are journalists, but not necessarily sports writers, Brown explained. “They are sport fans that are fantastic writers.”

Interesting community play around sport. This whole move is clearly very sports-led.

Update 2: Patrick Smith’s analysis is now up and he thinks it’s all about The Sun’s reader relationships:

Does News UK want to increase the ARPU (average revenue per customer) across the Sun’s brand, to counteract falling advertising and circulation? No, says Darcey – it’s about turning a mass, anonymised web audience into a smaller, more targeted data-rich audience.

He also notes the print protectionism in the strategy:

As some of us have long suspected since Rupert Murdoch’s Damascene conversion to paywalls in 2010, the real motivation behind much of this is to protect and maybe even increase print sales. This is especially true of the The Sun which sold 2.24 million copies a day on average in June (down from 4 million in the 1980s).

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.