Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Sun Launches A £4.2 Billion Marketing Campaign?

A guest post by Chris Brace.

Every now and then the Newspapers in this country come up with a marketing wheeze that seems to be going to cost an arm and a leg, and you can’t quite see how anyone will ever make a profit. One example is the 1980’s Newspaper Bingo Craze, but the current free giveaway Sun offer seems to go way beyond that.

The paper is in the middle of a three day scheme where every household in England is to receive a copy of the paper except those in the city of Liverpool, for Hillsborough related reasons.

That’s 22 Million copies due to appear through the letterboxes of the nation in the next 48 hours.

There are odd things about living in a house with a retired printing engineer. He just doesn't appreciate books and newspapers in the same way most people do. Whereas for me it’s the content that is king, for him the construction methods are frequently the things that are the most interesting.

While the Sun freebie would have headed straight for the recycling, someone picked it up and found there were staples on the spine. And that activated his interest. Who could have printed this edition as usual Newspaper printing machines tend not to have stapler units?

If you take a look at your newspaper there is an easy way to find this out, there is a small section of text in every edition that tells you these things. This is called the Imprint.

The imprint will have the name and address of the Newspaper, the Publisher, the Printer, and then the words “Registered as a newspaper at the Post Office” followed by copyright declarations.

This small section has to be there by Law so that Libel Claimants know where to send legal claims, or the Police Know whose door to kick in if your newspaper is trying to Bring down the Government , and publisher and printer can be fined for excluding it.

The relevant laws are the Printers Imprint Act of 1961 and the Newspapers, Printers, and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869 One of the relevant section reads as follows
Every person who shall print any paper or book whatsoever which shall be meant to be published or dispersed, and who shall not print upon the front of every such paper, if the same shall be printed on one side only, or upon the first or last leaf of every paper or book which shall consist of more than one leaf, in legible characters, his or her name and usual place of abode or business, and every person who shall publish or disperse, or assist in publishing or dispersing, any printed paper or book on which the name and place of abode of the person printing the same shall not be printed as aforesaid, shall for every copy of such paper so printed by him or her forfeit a sum not more than [level 1 on the standard scale]:
A Level 1 fine on the standard scale is Up to £200 since the Criminal justice act 1991 came into force and that amount is due for every single copy of the newspaper that doesn’t include the required details.

The Free giveaway Sun issue that’s being pushed through 22 million doorways as we speak, Guess what it’s missing?

Somehow the Imprint has failed to make it to the printed copy.

How this has happened is something of a mystery, as it is usually part of the standard computer generated outside leaf of the newspaper, and printers are well aware of their legal responsibilities. If they print a newspaper without an Imprint, not only are they fined, and the publisher fined, but they also are not allowed to claim the cost of the printing back from the publisher. A double hit on anyone who might consider doing this.

So what is the situation? 22 million copies at up to £200 fine per copy That’s a fine of up to £4.4 Billion.

Some articles on this obscure piece of law say that it’s only a £50 fine, but they may be based on the previous fines schedule, but even that would amount to a £1.1 Billion fine.

It may however be that with the current schedule, the expected fine is ¼ of the maximum, It’s just something that happens so rarely there aren't that many court cases to refer to. One thing that is certain is that there will be a queue of Liverpool lawyers and MPs demanding the Attorney General takes the appropriate legal action over this illegality.

If this does end up in court, it could end up the most expensive publicity campaign in newspaper history.


  1. You answered your own question kinda:
    A newspaper isn't stapled according to the oxford dictionary, so doesn't fall into the same legislation and requirements - which is probably why they stapled it in the first place.

    1. The Oxford Dictionary definition is irrelevant. The Printers Imprint Act of 1961 and the Newspapers, Printers, and Reading Rooms Repeal Act 1869 do not make an exception for printed matter with staples.

    2. Also, it calls itself a 'paper' on p2. As does all PR and ad material relating to it.

    3. It could have been printed outside of the UK which would make it exempt from that act.
      They could also say it was packing material which is all its good for really anyway ;)

    4. Magazines still require (and have) imprints, and are registered as such.

  2. I am so glad I am not getting one, I wouldn't fancy wiping my backside with it in case I got nicked by a staple/

  3. lets get this vile waste of paper put in the same place as its sister publication `news of the world` OUT OF BUSINESS.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. They are being posted in Liverpool and a lot are posting them right back to the sun

  6. I intended to line my rabbit hutch with the 'sun' freebie but than thought why should my rabbit (Puzzle) have to stomach this drivel - not sure if I will post it freepost back to the Sun or just Incinerate it hear on earth - Lol

  7. This is good fun.

    But looking at the legislation, it seems there are defences. Am sure News International can work them out.

    One thing to note is that page 1 does carry the Sun's url, which connects to a "contact us" page with the full address and so on. Just on the strength of this, the "mischief" which the legislation is aimed at is met. The statutory wording of "place of abode" is sufficiently vague to be read purposely.

    And also: one does not have to be a fan of News International to not want news publishers to incur criminal liability on such a basis.

    It is a great spot by Chris, but I don't think it is one to take too seriously.

  8. Shame @JackofKent it is the right answer, and just saved Murdoch a couple of billion. Suggest you enhance your hourly rate if you intend making a habit of handing out more gems like this! ;)

  9. It's a "newspaper"? I thought it was a toilet paper and firelighter promotion!

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