Its sales exceeded five million copies a day. His millionaire income subsidized The Times , the News UK group’s ‘serious newspaper’, which brought more prestige than profit to the Rupert Murdoch-owned organization. Its covers boasted of putting prime ministers on and off, raising and then sinking Margaret Thatcher, John Major, or Gordon Brown. But the last decade has seen The Sun lose all its value.
This Friday, the company’s accounts show that the famous tabloid has had losses of 201 million pounds in 2020, and that the value of its brand is now zero, compared to more than 100 million in which it was valued in 2019 .
News UK, a subsidiary of Murdoch’s group (owner of, among others, Fox News in the US or several newspapers in his native Australia), has presented its results for the last year, and the data is clear. Losses from its British flagship have risen from £ 68 million to £ 201 million.
In addition, the tabloid has ceased to be the best-selling medium in the country after several decades of dominance: the Daily Mail , another conservative newspaper but more critical of the Boris Johnson government and Brexit, has taken the lead.
The Sun crisis began a decade ago, when The Guardian newspaper uncovered that its Sunday edition – then called News of the World – had hacked the voicemails of celebrities and even a missing girl, Milly Dowler, to get exclusives through espionage telephone.
The police investigation discovered that the Sun’s newsroom for the rest of the week had also participated in the punctures, following the instructions of the director of both media, Rebekah Brooks, current CEO of the entire News UK group.
Murdoch had to shut down the News of the World – which he renamed Sun on Sunday- and pay hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation, both to the victims of his punctures and to various journalists whom he designated as scapegoats and fired without proof. In this last year, judicial payments still amount to 52.3 million, almost double the 27 million that it disbursed for this concept in 2019.
Added to that is the crisis of the paper media. For many years, much of the Sun’s sales were due to the competitions they held, such as a weekly bingo in which some of the copies offered tickets that were awarded with up to a million pounds. The drop in paper sales put an end to this business model, and the medium was unable to adapt to the digital model.
While The Times launched a successful subscription model, its more populist brother saw digital revenue plummet after trying. And in the free model, the Sun is now only the 16th most visited media outlet, behind many of the enemies that it devastated on paper, such as the Daily Express or The Guardian .
This situation almost closed the circle of the medium’s life: when Murdoch bought it in 1969, the newspaper was practically bankrupt, and the then Australian press baron resurrected it by reducing its size, going from competing with the ‘serious’ newspapers to rival the tabloids, adding photos of half-naked women to page 3 and turning to the conservative side, taking advantage of Thatcher’s political pull. Fifty years later, the magic formula that led him to win billions seems to have been exhausted.