The second edition of News International's 50p Sun on Sunday at the weekend (4 March) is believed to have sold 2.66 million copies, placing it exactly on a par with average sales of the company's previous Sunday tabloid, News of the World, before it closed in July.
The sales figure for Sunday's Sun represents a drop of 560,000 from its launch issue, reported to have sold 3.22 million by Murdoch, but confirms a significant boost to the total number of people buying newspapers in the UK.
Collectively, The Sun on Sunday's tabloid and mid-market rivals are believed to have lost around 1.1 million sales since its arrival, significant drops, but far fewer than the 2.66 million sales gained.
The figures confirm Murdoch’s newest entrant has so far served to increase the Sunday newspaper sales, but with it only on its second week, questions remain whether such sales can be sustained across the board.
Sources from UK publishers are largely in agreement when revealing current changes to newsstands since The Sun’s arrival: Trinity Mirror's red-tops have been hit hardest, with sales of the Sunday Mirror (1.15 million) and The People (465,000) – both back to their £1 cover prices in most regions – down by 545,000 and 300,000 copies respectively.
Sales of Northern & Shell's 50p Daily Star Sunday and Sunday Express are believed to have fallen by 135,000 and 73,000 copies respectively since The Sun on Sunday launched.
Meanwhile, Associated’s mid-market leader, The Mail on Sunday, is believed to have been the least affected, losing around 48,000 copy sales in the last month.
The early figures collated by individual publishers are unofficial, but believed to be reasonably accurate. It is too early to say what the settle-down sales figure will be, or indeed how readership numbers will fare against the 7.35 million News of the World reported in its last set of NRS data (Jul10-Jun11).
However, the figures do support the latest research from Ipsos Mori, which suggests Sunday's new Sun has been well-received by readers, despite coming just 231 days after the closure of the News of the World.
Its poll of 2,000 people found that nearly a quarter (22%) of the British population felt that the launch of the Sunday edition of The Sun was a good idea. It may not be surprising to note that those most in favour of the newspaper were already readers of News International's Sun.
Around three in five (58%) of the readers of the Monday-to-Saturday copies of The Sun were found to be in favour, as were two-thirds (66%) of former regular readers of NoTW. For the latter, the figure fell from 74% prior to the launch, to 63% after the launch, which may suggest that expectations of some former NoTW readers were not met.
By comparison, overall seven in ten (69%) readers of the new Sunday edition of The Sun also thought the launch was a good idea. A relatively small proportion among The Sun (13%) or former NoTW readers (12%) were not enamoured with the move.
Outside of News International's readership, a third of the UK's population (32%) represented in the sample were said to think the launch was not a good idea. This figure is consistent both pre- and post launch.
Following its launch, only one in 10 (9%) of those who actually read the new Sunday issue were also not in favour of the launch.
The research specialist notes another interesting figure is the 46% of adults who did not have an opinion on the matter at all, with many believed to be largely indifferent to the launch. In times of declining newspaper circulations and readership numbers, any boost to print sales is likely to be welcomed.
John Carroll, director at Ipsos MediaCT, called the launch a "tonic for the press", but added that he thinks the industry's future focus lies with "distributing and monetising digital content".
|Sunday newspaper sales|
|Newspaper||Est. new sales||Jan average sales|
|Daily Star Sunday||490,000||624,029|
|Mail on Sunday||1,873,010||1,921,010|
|Sun on Sunday||2,660,000||-|
|Total copy sales||6,607,010||5,046,218|
Unofficial estimates of tabloid and mid-market sales on Sunday
Follow Arif Durrani on Twitter: @DurraniMix