Sun
Credit: Image by spcbrass on Flickr. Some rights reserved
The Sun is "learning all the time" about its digital audience and how to measure engagement, following the introduction of its online paywall in August, according to editor David Dinsmore.

At News UK, publisher of The Sun, this week, for example, Andy Day started in the new role of business intelligence director, as the company continues in its bid to better understand how its audience engages with its content, and to support its battle for the "share of attention".

Speaking at a London Press Club event this morning, The Sun's editor refused to share any digital subscription figures, or even give an indication of how uptake had performed so far in comparison to expectations.

But when it comes to learning about the digital audience, he suggested this was an ongoing area of development, which he expects to continue "over the next two decades".

"I think people underestimate the sea change going on in newspapers," he said. No longer is it just about "lobbing stories in the paper", he added, but instead there is a growing need, and opportunity, to "understand all the data" available, he said. (There is more on how The Sun and fellow News UK title The Times tracks readers across different devices here.)

While he would not reveal any paywall-related statistics, Dinsmore did give a glimpse into the mind of The Sun in terms of where it places itself in the digital content market, identifying BuzzFeed as a competitor.

BuzzFeed, Dinsmore said, is "the best thing on the internet, because it does The Sun on the internet". "The way they tell stories is brilliant because it's the way we tell stories," he added.

"So yes I do see them as competition. The way they mix light and shade is very Sun-like. It is probably the closest thing on the internet to what we do."

When asked about claims that The Sun had "lost a third of its share of the online market", Dinsmore dismissed such figures as a "finger in the air".

"Nobody actually knows apart form us," he said.

The changing world for newspapers

Dinsmore reflected on how the journalism industry has developed, in light of his earlier career as a reporter, and recent appointment as Sun editor, with a move to the operations side in between.

"The world we're now in is completely different to the one three or four years ago," he said. "Everything about it has changed."

We have to recalibrate where we are todayDavid Dinsmore, The Sun
He stressed that video in particular is an area where legacy print media has much to learn, as well as social media, where The Sun itself is "just really coming to the party on".

But, he added, "print has a long way to run", and will continue to be "part of the mix". The key for newspapers is going to be that they "learn how to fill in the other bits they could be losing elsewhere".

Asked whether The Sun has "lost its mojo", in reference to some of its best-known scoops and headlines of the past, Dinsmore said no, but stressed that "what's changed is the landscape".

"You're talking about days of a few national newspapers, TV stations and radio stations and that's it," he said, adding that today the market is a much busier place, and exists across a plethora of platforms.

"We have to recalibrate where we are today".

The Page 3 debate


One issue which was raised by a number of members of the audience at today's event was the continuation of Page 3, known for the appearance of topless models.

"I make the paper for the readers," Dinsmore said, in response to being asking if he was "sticking with it". "I don't make it for the No More Page 3 campaign, the Twitterati or for readers of the Guardian".

He added, however, that he did pursue feedback and focus groups on the matter before coming to that decision.

"The word that came back was 'do not touch it'," he said, adding that readers, male and female, "see it as an intrinsic part of the brand and taking it away was brand-eroding".

He has "now parked the issue and we move on", he said, although added that he will "never say never in how we deal with things".

It is "not set in stone that there must be pair of breasts on Page 3 every day in The Sun", he later added.

"We produce a living, breathing organism every day. How that lives and breathes depends on the material available on that day".

Press regulation

Asked about press regulation, Dinsmore said that it will be "at our peril we drop our guard on this". "We are in a much better and more sensible place now," he added.

"I think what is really important through all this is we get out of the circular firing squad the press has found itself in... all of us trying to kill each other.

"The only winner," with that approach, he added, "is the politicians".

The relationship between press and police

Another issue raised by Dinsmore, was the current relationship between the media and police. He said that as an editor he has been "left in a ridiculous limbo", where he has had to decide whether to name an arrested individual, because the police have refused to confirm or deny information brought to them by the press.

In one case, where he said the decision was made to put the information online first, "everyone piled in behind" in reporting the details, he said.

"It's ludicrous, and not a good place for an editor to be", he said, as well as "not a good place for an arrestee to be".

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).

blog comments powered by Disqus