The Sun has announced that it will be launching a new Sunday edition this weekend.
"The Sun's future can now be reshaped as a unique seven-day proposition in both print and digital," stated Sun editor Dominic Mohan in an article discussing the launch. "Our readers' reaction to the announcement of a seventh-day Sun has been huge and we won't let them down."
The news comes as the paper is still recovering from the arrest on February 11 of five senior Sun journalists, who were later released without charge. The arrests provoked conflict at the Sun, as staff objected to the way the Management and Standards Committee - an independent body set up by News Corp to investigate allegations of illegal activities at News International - handed over large amounts of evidence to the police without consulting journalists.
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch, who visited staff at News International's headquarters in Wapping last Friday in the wake of the arrests, will remain in Britain to oversee the launch. In the midst of ongoing investigations into phone hacking and other illegal activites, Murdoch has sought to reassure staff of his full commitment to the paper.
News International CEO Tom Mockridge announced the launch of the Sun on Sunday to staff in an internal memo: "As you know, News Corporation has made clear its determination to sort out what has gone wrong in the past and we are fundamentally changing how we operate as a business."
But he stressed: "the commitment of News Corporation to invest in a new edition is the strongest possible message of support we could wish for."
The new Sunday tabloid may do something to fill the gap left by the closure of News International's News of the World last July, which was shut down after phone-hacking revelations. However, while some former News of the World staff will be employed at the Sun on Sunday, David Wooding, former political editor of the News of the World stressed in an interview on Sky News that "this is not the News of the World in another guise, this is The Sun publishing on another day."
Sophy Ridge, Sky News political correspondent who previously worked at the News of the World, wrote in a blog post "It is already being claimed that this is a straightforward News of the World relaunch. But in reality, it's an expansion of the Sun."
She also writes "This morning I've learned that Sun editor Dominic Mohan will also edit the Sunday edition (contrary to rumours that the former News of the World deputy editor Victoria Newton would take the role.)"
There has been some uncertainty about the demand for a new Sunday tabloid. BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas said that although the News of the World's closure had left a gap in the market, declining tabloid sales meant that it wasn't clear how much demand there would be for the new Sun on Sunday. Newspaper circulation figures from last December suggested to some commentators that almost half of the News of the World's previous readership have given up buying Sunday tabloids altogether.
Sophy Ridge implies that the Sun on Sunday won't serve as a direct replacement for the News of the World because there are important differences between the two papers. "The News of the World doesn't have a page three, it had more female readers than the Sun (48% to 44%) and more ABC1 readers (39% to 36%)," she writes.
Last Friday Rupert Murdoch announced that the Sun on Sunday would be unrolled "very soon" but the speed of the new launch has taken some people aback.
David Wooding, said on Sky news on Sunday: "it caught me by surprise. Mr Murdoch came round the editorial floor on Friday and said he was launching it very soon. We heard rumours of a date in April. This evening, astonishingly, we are told it's going to happen next week."