Media Lifeline: The Sun online

The tabloid has had a rocky time with digital but NI now appears commited to the online community.

April 1999: The Sun launches a free internet service provider operation through a new portal, Content and e-commerce partners include Emap, the online book retailer, The Learning Company and Lycos. Its boss, The Sun's marketing director, Ellis Watson, argues that tapping into The Sun's huge readership will allow it to "own" a huge chunk of an increasingly lucrative market as internet use continues to grow.

March 2000: After Watson (pictured) departs to start his own company, News International gets cold feet and sells the ISP. The Sun's digital focus now is developing paid-for content (mammary glands, mainly) and e-commerce initiatives via

September 2004: The Sun online has had increasing revenue success with paid-for gaming content such as the King of Punters fantasy horse-racing scheme and Dream Team fantasy football. But a News International strategic review reveals that The Sun's online popularity is damaging readership of the print product and senior managers begin arguing against giving away the paper's content free online each morning.

July 2005: But the sceptics are put to flight when Rupert Murdoch (pictured) rediscovers his enthusiasm for the web - a U-turn that manifests itself most clearly in News Corp's £305 million purchase of the community site

September 2006: The Sun's website relaunches with a "new tabloid style look". It also features more audio visual content, including news, video features, film trailers, gaming promotions and a "viral section" where readers/viewers can post links to amusing videos clips trawled from the web. A cross-platform element is provided by Deal or No Deal, with the gamecard available in the paper and prize draws taking place online.

Fast forward ...

2007: The Sun's print product is reinvented as a free commuter paper as the digital brand is revamped as a multi-platform audio visual channel, available on broadband internet, digital TV and mobile devices. Soft porn films are available on a pay-as-you-go basis via the Page 3 sub-brand; while content on the main channel focuses on contemporary fun strands, including innovations such as topless darts and the weather in Norwegian.

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