Update: So now the mystery has been solved. Some time late today, the ownerships of the domain names thesunonsunday.co.uk and sunonsunday.co.uk flipped to News International, having originally be registered to unnamed parties. The domain thesunonsunday.com and sunonsunday.com are still registered to unnamed parties. In a meeting with News of the World staff today, Brooks reportedly discussed the future Sun on Sunday by name.
Meanwhile, subscribers to the NOTW.co.uk, which was put behind a paywall last year, were emailed today detailing that this Sunday would be the final edition of the paper. Access to the site “will be open to the public for free for our final edition on Sunday 10th July.” Those subscribers with outstanding credit will get a refund.
Original post: Yesterday, amid the shocking news that News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). would be shutting down its prized Sunday UK newspaper News of the World amid phone hacking allegations, some commentators started to gather around another fact: the domain names TheSunOnSunday.co.uk and TheSunOnSunday.co.uk had been registered only days ago. So was that part of parent News International’s tactic to resuscitate its Sunday publishing operation before losing its audience — the biggest of all the UK Sunday papers — to competitors? Some believe not.
A teardown of the registration, courtesy of the Online Journalism Blog, points to some reasons to think that this is just the work of your average, opportunistic cyber squatter:
— The who.is registrations. The who.is pages describing ownerships of the .com domain and the .co.uk domain are registered to different companies (.com to Webfusion Ltd in Leeds, and Mediaspring, also in Leeds). But both were filed on the same day, July 5, 2011, and both list http://www.123-reg.co.uk as the referral URL. The OJB post notes that News International usually uses CSC to register its domain names, rather than a site like 123-reg that is geared to small businesses and individuals.
— Then these is the issue of details on these companies. The co.uk domain, for example, is listed to a “UK individual”. It would “be odd for big corporation to withhold info on whois record”, the OJB notes. And it could be considered “Whois abuse” if it was found that a major corporation was masking as an individual in registering a name. (Although if the current allegations are to be believed, hiding facts is possibly not something unfamiliar in these parts.)
We have contacted Webfusion in Leeds to see if it can clarify why the name is listed to it and will update this post as we learn more.
Does the above mean that guesses about News International making a new Sunday tabloid (and therefore lessening the pain of needing to can NOTW) are entirely wrong? Not exactly. Extending a six-day publication to a seven-day schedule had been something News International was already mulling before this scandal broke this week, and may well end up doing — regardless of what name gets used.
The news of the domain name registration and speculation over what that meant had gone a bit media-viral by last night, with groups like CBS (NYSE: CBS) News, the BBC and even BSkyB’s Sky News (partly owned by News Corp, which is trying now to gain full control of the broadcaster) noting the domain and/or referring to News International’s plans to launch another UK Sunday tabloid.