A number of news outlets – including the BBC, Guardian and Channel 4 News – mentioned yesterday in their coverage of the closure of the News Of The World that TheSunOnSunday.com had been registered just two days ago. (It was also mentioned by Hugh Grant on last night’s Question Time.)
It’s a convenient piece of information for a conspiracy theory – but a little bit of digging suggests it’s unlikely to have been registered by News International as part of some grand plan.
When I tweeted the claim yesterday two people immediately pointed out key bits of contextual information from the WHOIS records:
Firstly, it is unlikely that News International would use 123-reg to register a domain name. @bigdaddymerk noted, News International “use http://bit.ly/cWSHia for their .coms and have their own IPS tag for .co.uk”
Murray Dick added that it would “be odd for big corporation to withhold info on whois record”
And – not that this is a big issue given recent events – according to @bigdaddymerk “in the case of the .co.uk registering as a UK individual would be whois abuse.” (UPDATE: The specific abuse is detailed here)
You might argue that the above might be explained by News International covering their tracks, but if were covering their tracks it’s unlikely they’d do it like this.
UPDATE: From Malc. in the comments: more digging has been done at Loutish – note the comments as well.
UPDATE 2: It seems there are other web addresses registered by other companies, too. This post points out, however, potential trademark issues (none has been registered) and conflict with Trinity Mirror.
UPDATE 3: Those other addresses are now registered to News International – but not the .com domains.
UPDATE 4: I think News Corp missed an opportunity with FoxNewsUK.com…
Anyway, digging further into the timeline of the ‘Sunday Sun’ casts further doubt on any conspiracy connected to News Of The World.
For example, it was reported over a week ago that The Sun was moving to 7-day production (thanks to Roo Reynolds, again on Twitter).
Between that announcement and the registration of TheSunOnSunday.com, anyone with a habit of domain squatting could have grabbed the domain in the hope that it would become valuable in the future.
Either way, even if it has been registered by someone at News International, the timings just don’t add up to a News Of The World-related conspiracy. Certainly it will have been a factor in deciding to close the NOTW, and plans to launch a Sun On Sunday are now likely to be accelerated (I’m amazed that they hadn’t registered the domains before, at least as a defensive move) – but it’s pretty clear that those plans pre-date the closure of NOTW.
So, as I wrote yesterday, a ‘Sunday Sun’ is not a rebranding of News Of The World. They have just closed the country’s biggest selling newspaper – its most profitable tabloid – and made 200 people redundant.
Note: this post was udpated to correct an error: the NOTW is not the highest selling English language newspaper in the world (that is probably The Times of India). Thanks to Paul Carvill in the comments for highlighting.