The Sun is to start charging for access to its website, implementing paywall plans announced in May. From tomorrow, people who do not pay £2-a-week for a subscription will not be able to read stories.
Paying subscribers will get access to a 'bundle' of Sun+ content: the website, Android and iPhone apps, an interactive PDF iPad edition and, key to its proposition, a new Goals app, available for iOS and Android devices.
The Goals app will include video clips of Premier League goals and an on-demand sports show broadcast twice daily.
Subscribers will also be given "perks", valued at around £200, as part of the membership deal.
From tomorrow, readers who want access to the website and apps will have two options: they can pay £2-a-week for bundled access or buy the paper and use a unique code printed in each edition to gain access.
The Sun website and apps
Mike Darcey, chief executive of News UK, told a press conference at The Sun this morning that he "accepts" that there will be a drop in traffic to The Sun's website, which the Audit Bureau of Circulation reported had 29.6 million unique browsers in June.
He said there is "not a lot of value" in the casual reader and that the news operation is far more interested in the highly-engaged reader. "If you get off on volume metrics [traffic] is exciting, but it's not of much value to the business," he said.
The Sun is planning to launch a responsive site which will be better suited to mobile "later this year", Derek Brown, The Sun's digital editor revealed.
Android and iPhone apps, which have been available until now at £0.69 a month, have been updated and will be relaunched tomorrow. They will be redesigned to match the user experience of the new Goals app and relaunched again in September.
New Goals app
In January The Sun announced that it had bought video rights to Premier League clips for the next three years. With the help of a partnership with ITN, it will package up the clips and push them to the new Goals app, available for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
Times readers will also get access to the new sports content. "We have one set of rights, but are exploiting them in two different ways," explained Darcey, who took over as chief executive of News UK (then News International) in December.
"Our customers will be the first to see the goals and key moments on the go," he said.
The publisher has also bought FA Cup rights, which they are licensed to begin broadcasting in a year's time.
With the launch of Goals, which will also be available to subscribers via the website and connected TV, The Sun is "moving into the football broadcasting world", Brown said.
The news outlet has hired anchors and will broadcast two shows a day, with the first at 6.30am, the second in the afternoon, which will be available on demand. "It will have an organic rolling news feel to it," said Brown.
The Sun has also hired "key columnists" and "bloggers". The bloggers are journalists, but not necessarily sports writers, Brown explained. "They are sport fans that are fantastic writers."
A new TV ad is about to be broadcast to announce and explain the new sports app and show how "we are going to have the goals in your pocket", as Brown put it.
"Hopefully you need never look at another football app again," he said.
Lucia Adams, deputy head of digital at The Times and Sunday Times, said readers will be brought "closer to the stadium via the app in their back pocket".
The Goals app has advertising at launch, including a Paddy Power ad which is a scratch card designed for the touch screen.
"If you are a regular Sun reader you never pay for Goals," Brown added, explaining how the tabloid newspaper will also feature a scannable code below match reports which will take readers directly to relevant footage within the Goals app.
Brown explained that the app has been planned with the typical Sun reader in mind. They may not be based in an office but "will have phone in their pocket and the smartphone app becomes a companion", he said.
"We are not becoming digital-first," Brown said, "We sell an awful lot of newspapers every day," referring to ABC-audited figures of 2.2 million on average a day in June.
Lessons from The Times
Darcey said plans for a subscription bundle for The Sun are built off the back of "quite a considerable success" at The Times, which put up a paywall in July 2010.
"The metric we look at is total paid sales," Darcey told the press conference, and they are "higher than in summer 2010".
He explained that people are spending an average of 41 minutes reading The Times tablet edition and said he hopes the new sports content will lead to "better retention", especially of the 140,000 paying Times tablet subscribers.
Asked about targets and pre-launch sign-ups for the Sun+ bundle Darcey said he was not prepared to share figures.
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