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Murdoch Lauds Big First Day for Sunday Sun

Sunday, 26 February 2012 05:51 PM

Rupert Murdoch said News Corp.’s first Sunday edition of the Sun sold 3 million copies, topping the circulation of its News of the World predecessor that he closed in the wake of a phone-hacking scandal last July.

Murdoch announced the sales figures on his Twitter page, citing “early reports.” The newspaper, featuring an interview with “Britain’s Got Talent” judge Amanda Holden, went on sale Sunday for 50 pence (79 cents), half the price of the News of the World. Murdoch said Feb. 24 he would be “very happy” at a circulation of “substantially” more than 2 million.

The News of the World closed after 168 years as advertisers pulled out following an outcry against reporters who had hacked into mobile phones, including that of a murdered schoolgirl. News Corp. sold all the advertising space for the Sun on Sunday as the furor that surrounded the phone-hacking has died down.

The 92-page tabloid also offered pictures of David Beckham and an editorial by model Katie Price. The Sun announced a “reader’s champion” who will correct errors. Journalists will be expected to adhere to the News Corp. code of conduct and the Press Complaints Commission’s code, the article said.

Murdoch, 80, flew to London last week to oversee the Sun’s expansion and appease reporters angered by a spate of arrests relating to a police investigation into bribery.

Since the News of the World closed in July, more than 1 million customers disappeared from the Sunday market, according to data from the Audit Bureau of Circulation. When the News of the World closed, it controlled 2.67 million readers out of a total Sunday circulation of 9.66 million, making it the most popular U.K. newspaper. Its readers dispersed to competing tabloids or stopped buying Sunday papers altogether, ABC said.

‘Injection of Life’

Trinity Mirror Plc decided to cut the price of the Sunday Mirror to 50 pence from 1 pound in response to the Sun’s pricing. The Mail on Sunday costs 1.50 pounds. The two are the Sun’s biggest Sunday rivals with 44 percent of readers and similar stories on sports and celebrities.

“What the Sunday newspaper needs is an injection of life,” Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Plc, the world’s biggest advertising company, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Last Word” in an interview with Louise Beale. “The consumer will have more choice, they’ll have more choice at lower price points, and advertisers will have more choice.”

The new Sun has a pull-out about soccer matches called Super Goals, fashion advice from Nancy Dell’Olio, a contestant on TV show “Strictly Come Dancing” and former girlfriend of soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, and an extra day of the Sun’s Bizarre show business column.

Bribery Arrests

The absence of the News of the World initially helped News Corp.’s rivals. The circulation of the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday jumped by double digits in July. The Daily Mail and General Trust Plc’s Mail on Sunday got a 17 percent boost to 2.26 million, becoming the largest Sunday tabloid in the U.K., according to the ABC. Trinity Mirror’s Sunday Mirror tabloid saw circulation jump 64 percent to 1.79 million.

By January, many of those readers had disappeared, and the Mail on Sunday’s circulation was down to 1.92 million.

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.

Murdoch started the new newspaper before a report from U.K. lawmakers that is expected to reprimand News Corp. executives who were in charge of newsrooms that bribed public officials and hacked into voicemails.

Following the News of the World’s closing, Murdoch and his son James, the former head of the News International publishing unit and now deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., had to appear before U.K. Parliament to explain how much they knew.

‘Just Cynical’

News International also faces a judge-led inquiry into press ethics and three police probes into phone and computer hacking and bribery of police officers, which have resulted in about 30 arrests, including 10 journalists at the Sun.

The closing of the News of the World was “just cynical,” said Chris Bryant, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour Party, who had sued the News of the World over phone-hacking. Tom Watson, the lawmaker who is helping prepare the report into News Corp. executives, said “this will not draw a line under the crisis faced by News Corp. in the U.K.”

Murdoch’s reply is that having an influential newspaper is the key to prevailing in the crisis.

According to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Murdoch told Sun employees on Feb. 17: “Having a winning paper is the best answer to our critics.”

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Sunday, 26 February 2012 05:51 PM
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