Why the Star will fail to shine on Sunday’s stage

Sunday’s family-oriented market is no place for a paper with a core ‘Star’ offering, and extending it will only result in a bruising from the NoW

Is there really a need for another red-top newspaper? Apparently the British public thinks so, according to Northern & Shell owner Richard Desmond. Despite a market that is already overcrowded and with Sunday tabloids ailing (sales have declined by over 19 per cent over the past five years), Desmond is reported to be planning to launch a Sunday Star in late May, with a target circulation of 700,000.

Is it simply that the Daily Star’s recent success has gone to Desmond’s head or does his plan have true potential? There is no doubt that the Star is bucking the tabloid sales trend, currently enjoying a 13 per cent year-on-year increase in circulation (Audit Bureau of Circulations, September 2001 to February 2002). It is also attracting new readers to the newspaper habit – almost a quarter of its readers are under 25 years old.

But is it possible to transpose this recipe for success into the Sunday market? Irrespective of financial and staffing issues, Express Newspapers faces a glaring problem in deciding where to position the new title. The Daily Star is unashamedly aimed at men – seventy-eight per cent of its weekday readership is male. This is not a paper that readily travels from the workplace to home – it’s not a family read (the reason why sales of the Saturday edition are significantly below the weekday average) and this must be a concern for a potential Sunday counterpart.

Of course, Express Newspapers could take the decision to broaden the appeal of a Sunday Star, particularly by exploiting Desmond’s celebrity contacts. But why keep “Star” in the masthead if they’re not going to keep the core brand characteristics?

The mediaDNA research recently carried out by Zenith Media (in conjunction with three other media owners) shows that Daily Star readers regard their paper as having a very “British”, “sexy” image and that they believe that it talks to them “at [their] level”. It most certainly isn’t viewed as “intellectual”, but possesses a “carefree” and “extrovert” personality.

In many ways the brand personality and image profile of the Daily Star are similar to those of News of the World, but when it comes to positioning profile there are a number of key differences. The News of the World is regarded by its readers as a newspaper for “men and women”, it is “specially chosen” and has a “strong identity”. On each of these descriptors, the Daily Star does not score well.

Keeping the Daily Star’s brand characteristics for the new Sunday edition will markedly limit the number of potential readers, but diluting the brand could put the Sunday Star in direct competition with top selling British newspaper News of the World. The words “rock” and “hard place” come to mind and perhaps explain why we haven’t seen a Sunday Star before now.

Caroline Simpson is managing partner and head of press at Zenith Media

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