Media: Shift in focus keeps The Sun shining

'Labour's lost it,' screamed The Sun's front page a few weeks ago, bringing the Government's party conference to a nasty halt. The tabloid's decision to switch allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives generated huge interest across the media industry, which proves that as it approaches its 40th anniversary, The Sun still has the ability to own the news agenda. But two months into his new role as editor, Dominic Mohan has a big commercial mountain to climb.

As anyone working in the media is aware, Mohan has stepped into the hot seat at a rocky time. In order to maintain its high-profile position, The Sun must prove its relevance to a younger audience being courted by other methods of news delivery such as mobile phones and the internet.

'The Mohan future will focus on developing The Sun as a multi-platform media offering against an inevitable decline in offline sales,' says Ian Monk, founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the paper.

Mohan may also be about to lead the title into a period of paid-for content on the internet, making the brand's reputation, and the exclusivity of its content, critical. As former editor Stuart Higgins, founder of Stuart Higgins Communications, says: 'The biggest challenge every day remains breaking exclusive stories that everyone else follows. If News International starts charging for internet content, no-one will pay for something they can get for free elsewhere.'

PR professionals, then, should focus on selling in exclusives. But they should also be tailoring their style to what Higgins calls 'The Sun's ability to articulate complex issues in a straightforward way'.

Competitions and celebrity endorsement may also bring rewards for PR agencies, as appetite for celebrity news continues unabated. Mohan himself rose up from writing for the Bizarre showbiz column.

PROs should also bear in mind The Sun's new political stance, and Mohan's link to the Conservative leader's comms chief Andy Coulson, who recruited him to The Sun in 1996. As Jack Irvine, chairman of Media House and former founding editor of The Scottish Sun, says, the appointment of respected journalist Tom Newton Dunn to replace political editor George Pascoe-Watson 'signifies Mohan understands what an important role politics plays in The Sun mix'. PROs should be more sensitive to 'the Cameron agenda of being anti-big-government, in favour of public spending cuts and continued strong support for the Armed Forces', says Chris Kelsey, PR account director at Robson-Brown.

But there is no suggestion The Sun's influence is waning. As Monk says: 'It retains the attention of a daily readership of almost eight million and remains pivotal to PR thinking.'

QUICK FACTS
Circulation: 3,079,451 (ABCs September 2009)
Readership: Eight million
Website: thesun.co.uk
Contacts: Tel 020 7782 4000
News: news@the-sun.co.uk
Features: features@the-sun.co.uk
Website: talkback@the-sun.co.uk

A MINUTE WITH ... STEVE HAWKES, BUSINESS EDITOR, THE SUN

- What changes are planned now there is a new editor?

PROs should keep an eye on new faces writing for the paper. Russell Brand, Shami Chakrabarti, Frankie Boyle and Karren Brady have all written for us.

- Are we likely to see a continuation of Rebekah Brooks' editorial style?

As deputy editor, Dominic worked closely with Rebekah on editorial style so it is likely the fundamentals will remain the same. News and sport will continue to dominate the headlines, and our entertainment coverage has never been stronger. Campaigning will also remain key.

- Will The Sun's new political allegiance affect the stories PROs should offer the paper?

- Not really - we're always on the lookout for great news stories and we're always keen to keep politicians on their toes.

- What should PROs understand about the new regime?

It's business as usual. Don't forget we're not just a newspaper - our website and internet radio station SunTalk are always worth considering.

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