A Sunday edition of The Sun is being prepared to succeed the closed News of the World, sources at News International confirmed last night.
The new venture may not arrive on news-stands for many weeks, partly because News International is anxious that the paper, set to be called The Sun on Sunday, will be seen as a cynical replacement for the tainted 168-year-old title.
Staff said they believed executives might delay the project because of a 90-day staff consultation period under which some News of the World journalists will be offered new positions in the company.
A delay would also make it less likely that a new launch would impinge on the negotiations by the parent company, News Corp, to take control of BSkyB. On the other hand, the start of the Premier League football season in the middle of August will increase the pressure on News International to provide its audience with a Sunday tabloid.
Rebekah Brooks said last night she would make a "quick decision" over whether to take The Sun to seven days. News International has decided to rescue the popular News of the World magazine Fabulous, which will be included with the Saturday edition of The Sun from next weekend. Sources said the profitable supplement would be too expensive to relaunch with The Sun on Sunday.
One journalist said the new paper was likely to be given far fewer resources than its Sunday predecessor. "They are going to be doing it with a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the staff. It means we are never going to get a [match-fixing] cricket investigation again or a Sarah Ferguson investigation. That type of journalism is gone for ever."
Will The Sun on Sunday work? The publicist Mark Borkowski said it would find a market. "The Sun will work as a seven-day operation but it will be the end of that rugged and combustible journalism. News Corp has the promotional muscle to support this."
The Sun will find it difficult to raise advertising revenue for the new project, even if clients choose not to boycott it over its sister paper's hacking. Retail clients have steadily withdrawn from advertising on Sundays, and the News of the World had become heavily dependent on sales revenue. The paper was making only a small profit despite its circulation of 2.6 million.
The test for News International will be to persuade existing Sun readers to buy the paper on a seventh day.
Paul Thomas, a media consultant, said the company would find it harder to convert former News of the World readers who had not previously bought The Sun. That task would become more difficult if the new paper is delayed for a long time.
"Trying to get people to change the brand of their Sunday paper is very hard," he said.