THE SUN ON SUNDAY – THE BATTLE FOR NATSONS BARNES .

Sunday saw the much anticipated if not the ‘quickly’ launch of the Sun on Sunday. Launched to recapture the missing tribes of News of the World buyers- and those promiscuous ones who have migrated to the Mirror or elsewhere.
An extraordinary bold move , that has prompted comment from all and sundry, filled the Media Show and Media Talk podcasts – and had Tom Watson MP spluttering into his tea.

That’s the second to last time I’ll mention the politics – there will be plenty of that this
week, except to say that it’s been a pleasure to hear the calm and rational tones of Trevor Kavanagh giving the Sun’s side of the story, the NMA should get him on a platform to sell the value and power of the press ASAP – he is very compelling!

I’ve based this piece on a real newsagent; Natsons in Barnes London SW13. Natsons sits opposite Barnes pond nestling between Phase Eight a ‘Fashion for Women’ shop and Nina’s ‘an independent lifestyle boutique with a Scandinavian edge’.Perfectly placed as there are two places to sit and read,Delice de France and the newly opened Mara’s Greek coffee shop that has you rattling after a decent expresso.You’ll see most of Barnes good and great, here my favourite being Pete Tong.

Natsons is an institution.You can buy your papers in Martins the multiple down the other end but, they have them in a really awkward spot you have to excuse your way through the post office queue and navigate past a myriad of offers to get to the awkward spot and then the same on the way back to the till.

Natsons in 2004 won the Independent Retailer of the year and definitely know their stuff – it’s where you can still go to pick up the now free Evening Standard and while feeling guilty about taking something for nothing ease the pain by buying a Fry’s Turkish Delight .The shop is slightly more Lindt Chocolate Bunnies than Cadbury Creme Eggs but a thriving Newspaper shop never the less.

Barnes is no stranger to battles,Thames sewer pump defeated,Boris Johnson doughnut guerrilla territory and Zac Goldsmith’s famous hustings skirmish in St Mary’s Church.So it’s here and 1000′s of shops like it that Rupert’s circulation war will be won or lost.

There is something quite exciting about the speed from announcement to print, and that it’s been overseen by the rheumy eye of the man himself Rupert Murdoch who “flew into Wapping” last week – more accurately this should read “flew into Luton and then drove to Wapping” but in Wapping he most certainly is .I imagine the energy and buzz at HQ must have been incredible, only a launch to brings out the best in an organisation particularly sales.I’ve been involved in three and there is nothing quite like that moment when the luvvies or editors turn and ask what the revenue is looking like.Not what it’s going to look like or feel like or what it could be – no what it actually is in Pounds, Shillings and Pence.

It’s been fascinating watching the media journos clamouring to make sense of what form the paper will take , who’ll be in it, who the writers will be and who the advertisers will be.Well now we know.

The marketing has been simple based on a countdown which is easy to change and as the Sun has brand history no need to explain.Topped up on Saturday night with one of those “cut together ads” of ordinary people singing a song that are never quite seamlessly edited ,nice all the same. This was in stark contrast to the Sunday Mirrors which had a distinctly home made feel about it;did catch a Star one which I think offered you the entire Northern and Shell printed output plus a couple of pints of lager.

Pre it’s demise Natsons sold 67 copies a week of the NOTW,last week the sales figures for the Sundays stood as follows :

Sunday Times 400
Mail on Sunday 120
Sunday Telegraph 150
Observer 13
Sunday Mirror 25
People 9
Sunday Express 20
Star 10

At Natsons the owner maintains that the NOTW was bought mainly as a second paper ie bought with the Times or the Mail – makes sense as I remember Clive Milner regularly hammering this home re the ABC 1 readership of the NOTW.A few sales have gone to the Mirror but “not many” he asserts.

So here are the results of the first Sun on Sunday war , based on what’s been sold so far and the “Natsons predictor” .Later on I’ll analyse the ads inside and break out % share by media buying group ie supporters and non supporters – ad booking results here arrived at using the recently launched “Bowbooking Indexation System”.

By 10 am on Sunday Natsons anticipated the following sales :

Sunday Times 400
Mail on Sunday 120
Sunday Telegraph 150
Observer 13
Sunday Mirror 28
People 9
Sunday Express 20
Star 20

SUN ON SUNDAY 94

So clearly a success on its first outing and a whole lot more than the NOTW used to do.

Natsons had the following observations:

Over 50% were double buys,in the main the Times

The Mirror was slightly down.

Customers were buying lots of red tops today due to the 50p price point.

He did think the Sun On Sunday didn’t stand out enough as a new paper, “it just looks the same”

He was really pleased to see some competition and a chance to see some potential new customers – he thinks the lost NOTW buyers went online and consequently didn’t come in the shop anymore.

Cover price is one income stream,advertising the other. The paper felt pretty thick and Rupert claimed as early as Thursday that they’d sold out of ad space so I counted the following – I’m ex telly so excuse the rounding:

11 full page ads including 6 from Morrisons

22 half page ads

The breakdown of bookings from the Media buyers are;

Full Page ads I reckon Group M 100% so terrific support from WPP

Half page ads, good support from across the ad business.

The above was as accurate as I could get it up to my son nicking it.

So in all a very strong first outing driven by a price that has stimulated the whole Sunday Market.

Enjoy the political backlash this week but at the very least have some respect for the skill,speed and dedication of the folks who produced the Sun on Sunday if not the owner.

  • Joe Bloggs

    Interesting stats from a local shop, some good spadework here. But Martin you don’t discuss two crucial aspects of the new paper, namely its branding and its content. Firstly, branding: The shopkeeper gave a very incisive insight – “it just looks the same”. Yes it looks like the weekly Sun – very disappointing. The logo is atrocious. The ‘rising sun’ element in the logo is risable. From this aspect it is a failure of branding alone. But the whole look and feel of the paper is that of the weekly – do people want the same Sun on a Sunday or a paper that is different? I suggest the latter. So no standout at all.

    Secondly, the content – how boring a read it was. Where were the investigations in crooked businessmen, badly-behaving Royals, the talentless overpaid footballers who have lost their moral compass, the celebs, and the ‘pulse’ comment on Britain that the News of the World used to provide? Amanda Holden on the front page is not really a story worthy of its position. It’s a total fail for me I’m afraid.

  • martin bowley

    Thanks Joe,

    Truth is that everyone in media land worth their salt will have bought the paper and had their own views on the content.

    Thankfully they all don’t live in Barnes so I chose to report from the frontline.

    Best Martin

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