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November 24, 2022

Kelvin MacKenzie: The Sun has surrendered to ‘lefty activists putting the hard word on advertisers’

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie believes his former title's days are numbered.

By Kelvin MacKenzie

I was told last week that the management of News UK had looked at the circulation decline of the Sun over the year, then threw in the startling decline in the paper’s advertising revenue, and worked out that sadly, the newspaper would close in six years[see News UK denial and comment at the end of this piece].

There is nothing unusual in this forecasting. A few years back Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News UK, told me shortly after firing me as a columnist for not knowing Premiership footballer Ross Barkley had a Nigerian grandfather (who knew? a Chelsea fan? Rupert?) they thought The Sun had 15 years to go before the last paper was published.

So the demise of print (not digital) is speeding up. It’s inevitable. Perhaps they might try carbon dating Rupert Murdoch and see how long he will last as that will definitely decide how long The Sun stays open.

With its choice of stories and general editorial view, The Sun has not helped itself to survive over the last few years as a print product. I do understand the problem the management faces as it affects every centre-right media. The Daily Mail and Mail Online is a victim too. Even Elon Musk has complained about the lefty activists putting the hard word on advertisers leading to a multi-million dollar loss in revenues.

This is how the activists work. They send emails to media buying groups acting on behalf of the retailers (and the CEO of the retailer itself) citing any story they don’t approve of, normally meaning race, trans, free speech, union excess etc. They urge the retailer not to place the ad again (even better pull the entire campaign) or threaten them with a public boycott.

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Not unreasonably the retailer is puzzled. All they did was place an ad.

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Media buyers, a lily-livered lot, fold immediately. Some of the dimmer ones even start giving their views on the editorial content of the paper. One Daily Mail sales guy was asked why a picture of Adele was on the front page. Give me strength.

The Sun had a choice. It could continue to publish ‘difficult’ stories and threaten its ad revenue or basically ask the editor to go easy on the accelerator. They chose the latter route. The circulation then fell away as the paper no longer reflected the interests of a white audience in its 50s.

Very few know today’s sales because the News UK management refuses to disclose the circulation publicly.  The only people allowed to know the sacred number are media buyers (they need to know to work out the value of campaigns) and even they have to sign an NDA. Incredible.

I remember The Sun smashing through the four million mark and boasting all over page one with Rupert cheering us home.

I suspect the Sun’s sales are below 500,000 but that would look like a triumph to the management at Reach where the Daily Mirror is selling 290,000 every day and the Daily Star, which at least likes to make you smile every morning, is selling 168,000. So the day of the printed tabloid is coming to a swift end.

Nobody will be more pleased at their demise than the management of these publications. Employing thousands, buying and maintaining presses, purchasing newsprint, transporting the papers, dealing with retailers, renting huge offices. All bloody expensive.

Digital has none of these impediments. Straight from the journalist to a phone. However, if free, the lefty activists (note; they are always socialists) will continue to demand that media buyers and retailers don’t advertise with media companies whose articles and attitudes they don’t approve of.

This is an issue for all journalists. If you are of the left you can publish any old nonsense about the skint and the dim and the ads will pour in but if of the right your views will face a financial penalty.

So I have decided to become involved. In the New Year, I am starting a daily news site called Daily Disclosure aimed at a centre-right audience over 40. It will be free for six to nine months and then go to subscription. That guarantees it will never be a big hitter but the advantage is that my staff will not have to bow at the knee to a media buyer under pressure from some wild-eyed lefty.

It’s not only print media that suffers from these lefty campaigns. Take LBC, the successful national speech radio station. A couple of years back Nigel Farage landed a 6pm show on the station. It was an enormous hit. Ratings went off the dial. The execs were ecstatic. They had never seen numbers like this at 6pm before.

As a founder of TalkSPORT I can tell you finding talk ratings at 6pm is like looking for a Tory MP who hasn’t been Chancellor. But he had views on Black Lives Matter and the Bristol statue which were uncomfortable for advertisers (and some staff) and had to go.

His departure was welcomed by the lefty James 0’Brien (he does 10am-1pm on LBC) who tweeted: “We have our station back’”.  Not sure O’Brien is that left-wing. I hugely annoyed him a couple of weeks ago him by tweeting that he was sending his daughter to an expensive private school in South West London.

He went on a mad rant on Twitter, claiming I was the worst journalist ever to be employed by the Murdoch press. There has been huge competition for that position over the years.  His outburst does prove these lefties don’t like it up ‘em.

Once we get up and running there will be a lot of that on Daily Disclosure.


A spokesperson for News UK told Press Gazette: “‘Any suggestion that The Sun is planning its closure are just nonsense and no such discussions have taken place. The Sun is the biggest news brand in Britain, as PAMCO and IPSOS numbers show, and we have ambitious plans for both digital revenue and audience growth. The Sun continues to break agenda-setting stories, hold the powerful to account and entertain our readers on a daily basis – both in print and online. Britain is always changing and The Sun is keeping pace with its audience.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
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Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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