News UK’s The Sun continues to be one of the most-read – and most influential – publications in the UK in both print and online.
The newspaper remains well-known for getting major scoops, breaking the news in recent years of Matt Hancock’s Covid rule-breaking affair with an aide in his ministerial office, groping allegations against then-Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher that ultimately led to Boris Johnson’s resignation as prime minister, that Harry and Meghan were planning to step down as senior royals, and the late Queen’s 2021 hospital stay.
Editor-in-chief of The Sun Victoria Newton has said: “The Sun brings our readers a unique mix of everything from agenda-setting world exclusives, massive entertainment stories, big opinions, the best sporting news, and serious public service journalism every day.”
Circulation of The Sun
The Sun is one of several UK national newspaper brands to have stopped publishing public circulation figures via ABC, alongside the Times, Telegraph and Guardian and Observer titles.
In March 2020, the latest month for which data is available, The Sun was on a circulation of 1,210,915 and The Sun on Sunday was on 1,013,777.
Industry insiders recently told Press Gazette the Daily Mail was comfortably ahead of The Sun on circulation. The Mail’s initial eclipse of The Sun came in June 2020 when it overtook the red top’s circulation for the first time in 42 years.
The Sun’s average daily print circulation is therefore somewhere below the 770,000 ABC-audited total of the Daily Mail.
However, audience data provider Pamco recently put The Sun as the most widely read commercial newsbrand in the UK in both print and online. It estimated a print readership for The Sun of 6.174 million per month versus the Daily Mail on 6.169 million. The estimate is made on a trailing 18-month basis to December 2022 via a survey with 22,000 participants.
Pamco also estimated that The Sun reaches 31.1 million readers per month, 21.9 million each week and 8.7 million people daily in print and online.
Mail Online did, however, beat The Sun in the latest digital figures from Ipsos iris, which found that the News UK-owned title had a monthly online audience of 25.1 million in the UK – 50% of the UK's internet population aged 15 and above – in May versus 25.2 million at Mail Online.
The pair frequently switch places in this UK online audience ranking, remaining closely competitive, although Mail Online was comfortably ahead on page views in May with 601.6 million compared to 353.1 million at The Sun.
Despite its high readership figures, The Sun is the least trusted newsbrand in the UK according to a recent Yougov survey. The Sun had a net trust score of -53, with 36% of people saying the outlet was "very untrustworthy", 23% saying it was untrustworthy, 15% neither trustworthy nor untrustworthy, 4% trustworthy and 2% very trustworthy.
Asked about the survey findings, a spokesperson for the Sun said: "The Sun is the best-read newsbrand in the UK and we are proud of our record of standing up for our readers, and campaigning on their behalf."
In the US, The Sun is a relatively new arrival having launched its dedicated website across the Atlantic in January 2020. However, it has frequently been one of the fastest-growing news websites in the US in the past year and is now the country's 18th biggest news website with 69 million visits in May compared to 118.9 million for Mail Online.
The Sun readership: Demographic breakdown
Ipsos iris data from May shows that The Sun's online readers are 54% women and 46% men. However, Ipsos' affinity index shows that men make up a higher share of minutes spent with the brand than women.
The biggest age group of online Sun readers is 55+, which makes up 35% of its audience. The 45 to 54 age group makes up 19%, as does the 35 to 44 group, while 25 to 34-year-olds make up 17% and 15 to 24-year-olds comprise 10%.
Some 84% of Sun online readers in the UK are in England. By region, the largest proportion of online Sun readers is in the South East (14%) followed by 12% in London and 10% each in the North West and East of England. However, on minutes spent the East Midlands has the highest affinity score with the brand followed by the South West.
To get an idea of print demographics, older materials give a general indication. According to a former advertising pack from The Sun, which appears to cite data from 2016, at that time 32% of the newspaper brand's readership was in the ABC1 demographic (upper and middle class). It stated that 404,000 Sun readers have a family income above £50,000.
News UK's current brand page for The Sun states that eight in ten football fans read The Sun, and that its Sunemployment brand has helped 150,000 readers back into work while 1.65 million Sun readers go on holiday through its Sun Hols vertical each year.
For comparison, at rival the Daily Mail, the average age of a reader is 56, readers skew 54% female, and 63% are ABC1.
Contributions by Silvia Pellegrino
Note: This article originally stated that The Sun had beaten Mail Online in the "latest digital figures" but used April figures instead of the latest available. This has now been updated to reflect the latest figures at the time of publication.
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