It was launched in February 2012 by publishers News Group Newspapers, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International. Their earlier Sunday title, the News of the World, had closed seven months earlier as a result of the phone-tapping scandal in which journalists were alleged to have hacked into the voicemail accounts of several politicians, celebrities and members of the public. Murdoch announced its forthcoming launch in late February, in a move interpreted as defiance in the light of the arrest of several of The Sun‘s journalists a few days earlier.
The new title’s first edition appeared on 26 February and retailed for an aggressively-priced 50p. It was predicted that The Sun on Sunday would have a markedly different feel from the NotW, and that proved to be the case, with far less provocative and salacious material than its predecessor, or even the weekday version of The Sun – even the Page Three girl had her arms crossed over her naked breasts. Media commentator Roy Greenslade commented for The Guardian: “It is recognisably a seventh-day issue of their [ie Sun readers’] favourite paper. There was, however, more than a hint of Take a Break magazine – plus a dollop of Hello! – about the first-person spreads.”
Although News International registered several Internet domain names incorporating “sunonsunday” several months before the launch, there’s no separate website; the Sunday edition shares the main Sun website – as well as its staff and offices in Docklands. There had already been signs that NI intended to move to seven-day operation, even before the NotW closed.
Its initial circulation surge (the first issue sold over 3.1 million copies, compared to the NotW‘s figure of about 2.6 million shortly before its demise) soon evaporated, and it currently sells somewhat under two million copies each Sunday, a fair few less than the weekday version.
There are Irish and Overseas editions as well as the main one. Like the main edition, it’s now behind a paywall, the so-called “Sun+” scheme, which includes various apps and promotions as well as access to the website.