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Nick Bennett

Strategy Director

Down comes the Wall at The Sun

So, nearly 2 years after its much publicised launch - The Sun, have decided to pull down their paywall - with all changes becoming evident by November 30th. Much was made of the £2 weekly charge with a wide range of additional benefits and services that came with being a subscriber.

Launching back on August 1 2013, where then editor David Dinsmore declared that it was "a landmark event for The Sun", adding that "asking readers to pay for content is the only way to protect the future of the newspaper industry".

The future was a clear one - we produce content that people pay to see in a regular printed newspaper, they should also pay to see it digital.

The writing was a little on the wall, as only back in June, Chief Exec of News UK, Mike Dacey said the organisation was to change and start allowing certain levels of free content. At the time it was stated that, “The guiding principle for the free content will be share-ability, helping us to take advantage of the growing trend of readers finding and sharing content on social media, given further impetus by the rapid rise in smartphone use.”

Looking a little deeper using SimilarWeb - the analysis is compelling - with 36% of the entire website traffic stemming from Social Media, and of this 36%, 79% of it was coming from Facebook - where they have 1.9 Million people who have liked them.

Perhaps most damaging is a 400% drop in unique users of around 30 million when audited in July 2013 compared to where they are today.

So why the change? The problem still exists, irrespective of the brand or the ‘quality’ of the content being created - when online we still live in a content consumption environment where we expect it for free. This mixed with our inclination to share stories with friends through social channels and keep aware of daily news updates through the channels that we use the most was always going to make what the Sun wanted to achieve, a bold step.

With content saturation in existence, where everyone has the ability to be journalistic or merely copy and paste printed copy into a space that is free and accessible by all, taking payment is always going to be a big ask/tall order.

With the infamous Rebekah Brooks back at the helm, it is all change again - what will be interesting to see is if other Murdoch owned publications like The Times and The Financial Times follow suit. Alongside this, will The Sun now be going directly for the jewel in the content crown and be preparing itself for a showdown with the Daily Mail? This is a site that gets nearly 200 Million viewers a month, albeit a whopping 35% of that stemming from traffic in the United States.

For brands, publications and businesses alike - the message is clear though - creating good, relevant, audience focused content is no longer enough to make a business out of. The need for genuine strategy that identifies you as different in a channel of noise and continual output has never been more critical - and that pressure is only likely to increase.