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Murdoch celebrates 'amazing' success of new tabloid as inquiry delivers new blow

The first Sun on Sunday sold more than 3 million copies. On Monday, an inquiry said the Sun had bribed officials and police officers.

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In its lead story, a column titled, “A new Sun rises today,” the publication vowed to be “fearless, outspoken mischievous, and fun,” but in its inaugural edition, the paper played it safe, with none of the salacious scandal-breaking for which its predecessor was known. It lacked, wrote journalist Peter Preston yesterday, “any real revelation or guilty pleasures.

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The same editorial announced the paper was appointing a so-called Readers' Champion to deal with complaints and errors, and it promised that its journalists would be ethical. "You will be able to trust our journalists to abide by the values of decency as they gather news," it said.

It even – surprisingly, given The Sun’s penchant for photos of naked women and stories about the sex lives of the famous – includes a regular column from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, one of the most senior leaders of the Church of England. Other columnists include Katie Price, a former glamour model and Hestor Blumenthal, a chef.

In an email sent to staff of The Sun last week, in which he announced the launch of the Sun on Sunday, Murdoch reiterated his intention to clean up News International. Saturday night, he personally oversaw the paper’s production at a printer north of London.

Some media analysts express disquiet that the launch of the new Sunday tabloid means Murdoch, who is once again publishing four national newspapers, is likely to reassume his dominance of the media market – before the NOTW closed, he owned nearly 40 percent of it.

A PROBABLE HIT

All-important advertising looked healthy in the paper’s debut edition. Morrisons, a leading supermarket group, took four full-page advertisements and one double page spread in the new paper, while a number of other big brands, including Nestle, took out full page ads.

Regular sales of 2.75 million are needed if the Sun on Sunday is to match The Sun's average circulation and the sales achieved by the News of the World, which sold an average of 2.67 million in June 2011, as the scandal was breaking, according to the most recent industry figures.

Industry-wide figures suggest that some of the NOTW readers have simply stopped buying a Sunday newspaper altogether. Following the closure of NOTW, The Sunday Mirror rose to a circulation of 2.3 million by the end of July 2011, compared to 1.9 million at the beginning of that month. But by the end of January, its circulation had dropped back to 1.9 million – a part, no doubt, of newspaper readers’ migration to the internet.

Media pundits, however, predicted that the Sun on Sunday would live up to the NOTW’s success.

“In order to avoid giving offence and therefore hint at being a reincarnation of its deceased ugly sister, the News of the World, it appeared unusually bland,” wrote Roy Greenslade, Britain’s leading media commentator, on the Guardian’s website Sunday.

“My hunch is that the seventh-day Sun will return shining sales figures after a weighty spend on promotion and marketing … In price wars, the gambler with the deepest pockets usually wins. And there are no prizes for guessing who that is.”

One newsagent in south London said she had ordered 100 copies of the Sun on Sunday, more than she would normally order for any weekend newspaper, and they had nearly sold out by mid-morning.

“It’s the first day, isn’t it?” she said. “Let’s see what happens next week”.

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