The Sun On Sunday: Murdoch's 'Desperate Last Throw Of The Dice' Or Good Business Sense?
After months of speculation and the closure of Britain's oldest newspaper, The News of the World, The Sun on Sunday will launch its first edition this week.
Following Friday's announcement that the paper would become a seven-day operation "very soon", a memo sent to News International staff on Sunday evening outlined just how soon - 26 February.
For James Alan Anslow, who worked as a senior journalist on The Sun and The News of the World for nearly 30 years and now lectures in journalism at City University London, the move is Murdoch's "desperate last throw of the dice" - and it doesn't guarantee that The Sun, The Sunday Times and The Times are safe.
Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, he said: "Even despite all this he [Murdoch] isn’t going to last forever. I still would not place any bets against News Corp walking away from the UK newspapers at some point. It might be post Rupert, and that can't be very far away."
The new paper will have existing Sun boss Dominic Mohan as editor, and it is expected they will put existing staff on a seven-day rota.
While some wondered on twitter whether The Sun on Sunday was just a re-launch of The News of the World seven months on, Anslow said it is only a matter for the "chattering classes."
"They're not launching a newspaper, they're launching an edition of a newspaper," said Anslow. "A good few hundred thousand people stopped buying a paper, which implies that there are people who were buying a Sunday paper who are not satisfied.
"It's not like everyone who bought The Sun bought The News of the World but - it's not a new paper, they've got the presses in place, the world's biggest, or Europe's biggest printing plant," he said.
"What this all comes down to is in terms of pure newspaper business, News International would be mad not to run a seventh edition of The Sun, just as there is on The Telegraph, The Mail, The Express, The Star and The Times – and, in many ways, The Guardian.
"They're not making any bones about it - every day is Sunday, that's their pitch. I would infer from that that much of the staffing, certainly all the backroom staffing and I bet you much of the production journalism i.e. the subs, they'll be seven days. The poor buggers who got made redundant from the News of the World, 200 of them, they'll be sitting there heartbroken."
Martin Moore of the media standards trust, meanwhile, says Murdoch's announcement was unexpected. "It's sooner than we all thought," the anti phone hacking campaigner told The Huffington Post UK.
Moore laughs off questions about whether he'll be locking up his voicemail pin, saying the launch of a seven-day Sun is an "opportunity" for News International to show it has turned over a new leaf following the phone hacking scandal.
"It offers an opportunity for News International to show that it has turned over a new leaf, that it will behave very differently. I think it is a very positive development and we'll have to wait to see what happens."
For Anslow, who is writing a book about the tabloid press, the real question is whether the new Sunday edition of the paper will be competing against its Saturday edition.
"The Sun on Sunday is going to work with the Saturday Sun. That's the difference. The News of the World was a direct competitor. I can remember chasing rival News International journalists around the press hall to stop them getting our exclusives. The NOTW was a proud and separate title that was in direct competition with The Sun."
David Wooding, the paper's new political editor who did the same role at The News of the World, said on Sunday evening that they did not yet know what the staffing levels would be.
"I'm told there will be extra staff taken on but this is not The News of the World in another guise, this is The Sun publishing on another day," he told Sky News.
Former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie argued Rupert Murdoch's new paper will be a great success and "Rupert would be mad not to start the paper", during a debate on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday.
But despite reports on Friday of Sun staff feeling relieved at Murdoch's show of support for them, Anslow has a different impression.
"People are conflicted, in one respect relieved the paper is not been shut down but they've already seen journalists and their contacts hung out to dry by News International. They're smart people, they're not going to swallow this hook, line and sinker."
Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represented Milly Dowler's family, said the only surprise was the timing.
"I said when the decision was taken to close the News of the World that it seemed a bad business move and bad for the employees that lost their jobs," he told The Huffington Post UK.
"People will remember that when asked what his priority was at the time, Mr Murdoch pointed at Rebekah Brooks and put her above everyone else.
"Trying to save her and not the paper failed spectacularly. The Dowlers never called for the paper to be closed, after the meeting with Mr Murdoch, I said that his papers should lead the way."
He said he hope the paper had "learned" lessons. "The influence of newspaper proprietors means that they have gone from being aristocratic “press barons” to law making politicians. What we have seen develop is “mediaocracy” rather than democracy. Often there is a difference between the interests of the population and what the press think that the public needs. That debate is far more interesting. We need to move away from a situation where it is “the Sun wot won it” to the “Sun wot reports it”."
While one former News of the World staffer who joined The Sun said colleagues were "comforted and excited" by the news over the weekend, The Huffington Post UK spoke to a former senior NOTW journalist who was less than happy on Friday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: "We can't help feeling 'why did he close the News of the World when he's happy to open a new newspaper under a cloud'."
See below for a slideshow of twitter reaction.