Voyage to the bottom of the Sunday market

 The ocean floor is littered with Sunday vessels of the Fleet Street fleet, casualties of quite the most brutal battle in the war that never ends. Where shelf life is half that of the dailies. Where it’s sink or swim on big-bucks broadsides.

Sunday Today and the Sunday Correspondent hardly survived their maiden voyages. The Independent on Sunday, Sunday Express and The People are badly holed. The Sunday Graphic, Sunday Dispatch, Sunday Chronicle, Empire News, Sunday Citizen and Woman’s Sunday Mirror are long disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle.

Now the drums go bang and the cymbals clang for Richard Desmond’s Sunday Star. Launching a Sunday on the back of an established daily looks simple. You just keep your finger on the button one more day a week, OK? That is what Desmond’s greatest predecessor thought too. When the public failed to come aboard, Beaverbrook kept telling himself he simply didn’t have the right skipper. Historian AJP Taylor noted: "The corpses of Sunday Express editors were spread up and down Fleet Street."

To save his Sunday Telegraph, Lord Hartwell had to go full astern and accept that his readers didn’t want the approach that satisfied Monday to Saturday needs. Vere Rothermere had to alter course quite the opposite way to keep his Mail on Sunday afloat. His core readers required a fix that that matched their weekday habit.

An obvious question is begged by the Sunday Star venture. If there’s this gap in the market, how come Rupert Murdoch has never launched a Sunday Sun? It has certainly crossed his mind. The objection was not that it would be added competition for his News of the World (better to keep that in-house than leave room for a Sunday Star). But Murdoch identified no such gap.

Even so, the hornier-than-ever News of the World is straddling the Sunday Star launch with "Ultimate Body" supplements. Last week, 24 pages of breasts. This week, 24 pages of bottoms: "Everything you need to know about bums." The People, seen as Desmond’s main target, is banking on 48-page sports supplements.

But the more newspapers, the merrier.

So twinkle, twinkle, little Sunday Star.

May God bless the skeleton crew who sail in her. And those in peril on the sea if she floats.

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