Eclipsing the Sun: Murdoch’s British Tabloid to Erect Paywall

Britain’s best-selling daily, The Sun, is putting up a paywall later this year. That means fans of the tabloid — known for topless “Page 3″ girls and headlines like “Harry The Nazi” (when Prince Harry wore a Nazi outfit to a costume party) and “George Michael Shunts Trucker in Rear” (about a car accident involving the musician) — will have to pay up to read it online.

News International Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Mike Darcey announced the move last night over drinks at Rupert Murdoch’s London headquarters. Darcey, a former gymnast who can still turn backflips, came from pay-TV operator BSkyB. He said television offers lessons for print on convincing consumers to pay for a medium they’re used to getting for free.

“It’s not rocket science but it can be done,” said the New Zealander, who also oversees Murdoch’s other U.K. paper, The Times of London. Darcey credited “strongly differentiated content” for the success of BSkyB (40 percent owned by Murdoch) against free broadcasters like the BBC.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph also announced plans for a paywall yesterday, taking a similar approach to the Financial Times and New York Times, which require subscriptions only after readers have viewed a certain number of articles in any given month. The Times of London has a strict paywall, blocking all viewing without a subscription.

Darcey declined to give specifics on how the paywall will be implemented. The Sun had an average daily circulation of 2.28 million last month, while the online version gets 30 million users a month.

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