Rupert Murdoch
Can Rupert Murdoch make the new Sun on Sunday as successful as News of the World? (Reuters) REUTERS

Britain's Sunday tabloid market has been muted since News of the World's scandal-driven exit from newsagents' shelves in July.

With the loss of the most vocal, most read and, above all, most profitable Sunday newspaper in Britain, a noticeable void was left.

This gap has been slightly filled by News of the World's rivals, with half of the paper's old readership jumping to the Sunday Mirror and Daily Star Sunday.

As for the other half - they appear to have left the Sunday tabloid market altogether.

About 800,000 readers disappeared from market circulation figures immediately after the News of the World closed in July and another 550,000 were temporarily picked up by other papers, before they stopped buying Sunday papers at the end of 2011.

By the time it was closed down in a mire of phone hacking and corruption allegations, the kind of sleaze the 168-year-old tabloid thrived on, it was averaging 2.66 million sales every month.

The question for Rupert Murdoch is can the Sun on Sunday, which will launch on 26 February, claw back the News of the World's old readership and make it enticing enough to bring back those who stopped buying Sunday papers altogether?

"News of the World was a great paper. It was professionally run, it was award-winning, it was very in tune with what British people want to read on a Sunday morning," Patrick Smith, editor and chief analyst of, told International Business Times UK.

"There's no reason to think they cannot achieve the same thing."

Smith finds it surprising however that Murdoch has sprung the Sun on Sunday's launch so quickly, without a big advertising campaign - but that will not stop it being an immediate financial success.

"It will make money from day one because there is spare advertising capacity here," he said.

"There are going to be ad buyers who will want that market straight away and it is the big brand advertisers - the Tescos, the Coca-Colas, Adidas, people like that - they are going to be interested in that spare advertising capacity.

"Whether the readers will be interested in it will be another question."

There is some speculation that Murdoch may be extending the Sun to a Sunday edition in order to increase its overall value before selling it on.

"Just for the record: Newscorp shares up 60c on news of Sun on Sunday. Highest for year," tweeted Murdoch shortly after he announced the Sun on Sunday's launch.

"I would not be at all surprised if he sold it. I think that all the News International titles are up for sale if someone can meet the valuation," Smith said.

The Sun is a personal project for Murdoch but Smith notes the ageing media baron will not be around for ever.

His family, who hold board positions across his companies, seem less interested in newspapers, making it less likely that they will stay in Murdoch hands once he dies.

"Look at the money. If you look at how much Fox makes News Corp, both in terms of movies and cable TV, that is a multibillion pound business they have there," Smith said.

"The Times has been losing money since day one [in the Murdoch stable]. The Sun is profitable, and the News of the World was, but that is nothing in comparison with their cable TV and film empire."

Couple this with a long-term view of the newspaper market and it seems unlikely that Murdoch's print empire will continue.

"It is going to be a smaller newspaper market every year. There will be no growth, especially for the popular papers, because people really are migrating online," Smith said.

Because of the internet the life of a scoop is "minuscule" and there is a cultural shift away from newspapers, with children not picking up their parents' print habits.

There is also the growing market of free publications, such as Metro and Stylist, to contend with.

The creation of the Sun on Sunday is more reputational and political than a pure business decision, said Smith.

"He is trying to re-coup some credit from a business point of view from what has been a really, really bruising 12 months. It is the biggest crisis in his career," he said.

"There are all sorts of reasons for having newspapers in Britain which are not just about revenue and profit, but the whole strategic PR role that those newspapers play.

"It is a very distinguished thing to be a newspaper publisher in London still, and I think that is why News Corp is still here."