The Sun to Abandon Paywall and Two Apps Nov. 30

The Sun's websites will now be free

Subscription News: The Sun to Abandon Paywall and Two Apps Nov. 30

Source: The Sun

Last week the British tabloid The Sun announced that it is bringing down its paywall and abandoning its Sun Mobile and Sun Goals apps, effective November 30. The Sun’s websites (U.K., Irish and Scottish editions) will now be free.

Owned by News UK, a subsidiary of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp., The Sun will continue its Sun Classic app, a digital replica of the daily print edition of The Sun, which is available to subscribers for £4.99 a month. The Sun’s membership program, Sun+, was launched in August 2013.

Subscription News: The Sun to Abandon Paywall and Two Apps Nov. 30

Source: The Sun

As of December 2014, The Sun had 225,000 members paying £7.99 per month (about $12.31 in U.S. dollars) for exclusive access to The Sun’s websites, tablet and smartphone apps, including news, columns, live Q&As, videos and more. Sun+ members who are also U.K. residents could also participate in the Sun Perks program. In an email to staff published by NiemanLab, the newly-reinstated News UK CEO Rebekah Brooks explains the changes:

“I recently shared with you the future priorities for the company and am excited today to tell you more about our plans for the first of these: growing The Sun’s audience. This will mean setting The Sun predominantly free in the digital world from November 30. By happy coincidence, this is also Cyber Monday, one of the best-performing days of the year for online retail.

Recent months have been filled with experimentation at The Sun. The standalone political site SunNation won plaudits at election time, we increased the number of shareable stories on social media, we entered platform partnerships with Apple News and we will be a major player in Facebook Instant Articles…

…Entering this new chapter for The Sun, we are in a strong position thanks to the many learnings we bring from the paid-for era. We know more about our readers than ever before. Our recent acquisition of Unruly, and our ongoing collaboration with colleagues at Storyful, further bolsters our position and will play a big role in how we supercharge our digital advertising capabilities.

When all of this is added to our new blended revenue model of advertising, premium content and revenue streams such as Dream Team and other exciting opportunities on the horizon, I have every confidence that this digital evolution will ensure that the unique space The Sun occupies in British culture will be preserved – and enhanced.”

Insider Take:

Brooks returned to News UK in August after a four-year absence. She resigned from News International in July 2011 and went on trial to face charges related to illegal eavesdropping by News of the World journalists when she was the editor, according to CNN. Brooks was cleared of the charges in 2014. Prior to leaving, Brooks made the initial decision to move The Sun’s content behind the paywall, said The Guardian.

In July of this year, The Sun relaxed that strategy to make much of its content available for free. This shift has increased The Sun’s average daily browser hits to about 1 million, reported The Guardian. Since her return, Brooks has made sweeping changes to The Sun, including these most recent changes. NiemanLab speculates the changes are due to competition from Daily Mail Online, a free publication.

We understand the need to compete against other news outlets, but we wonder how The Sun can afford to walk away from £21,573,000 a year, or about $33.3 million in U.S. dollars, in annual membership revenue (based on 225,000 members at £7.99 per month). How will The Sun make up for the lost revenue? Maybe it is making gobs of money from its Club Dream Team – fantasy football – or banking on significantly more digital ad revenue from the increase in web traffic.

We also wonder why The Sun would only keep an app that is merely a digital replica for its Sun Classic mobile app, rather than invest in an app designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. While this move may be attractive to readers, we can’t help but question the rationale behind it as a subscription company, but this isn’t the first time Rupert Murdoch has left us scratching our heads.