SCOTLAND IS CHANGING…WHAT IS OUR MEDIA DOING ABOUT IT?

BY JIM CHISHOLM

John McGurk in his article All Nationalists Now? … But We Prefer Right-Wing English Newspapers asks why we proud Scots seem so willing to turn to the Sassenach press for our daily fix.

Less than half of print readership (1) is derived from titles solely published in Scotland, the remainder being that of Scottish editions of London papers.

The English titles may employ more than 150 journalists in Scotland but, as John says, their editor-in-chiefs’ hearts and minds are in London.

The story in the digital world is even more alarming. Less than a quarter of daily on-line news readership is among Scottish titles (2).

Surely, we proud Scots can’t possibly stomach a diet of Murdoch’s and Rothermere’s prejudices? Well a third of Scottish readers turn to these two champions of impartiality alone.

In terms of ownership, only The Sunday Post is a truly national Scottish newspaper with the Herald owned by Americans and The Scotsman’s biggest shareholder a Malaysian.

It’s not just the Scots who seem so confused. Newspaper sales fair counter-intuitively, doing better in opposition.

The Murdoch and Rothermere titles, the Sun and Daily Mail, see their market share rise under a Labour Government while The Guardian benefits when the Tories are in power.

Around two million Scots a day, and another four million a month, read a daily newspaper —“not bad for an industry dying on its feet” as John puts it.

We are consuming far less volume and variety of news media overall, including TV. Laptops and tablets are not to blame. We are simply all too engrossed in our busy little lives.

Never was this more apparent that during the referendum.

Despite extraordinary interest, sales around the time of the referendum languished around 7% below the previous year.

The Daily Mail’s Scottish edition performed least badly, reducing losses during September from around -6% to -2%.

Only the Sunday Herald, which uniquely took a pro-nationalist stance, saw significant growth.

The winners during the referendum were undoubtedly the partisan blogs, such as Wings over Scotland, which for a short period enjoyed audiences approaching those of the Scottish qualities and the social media where much of the most interesting argument and influencing took place.

That the traditional Scottish media has lost much of its scale and influence is a fact, not a criticism.

This trend can only continue with little evidence that digital media offers a sustainable saviour.

John McGurk’s question of why we are where we are is interesting.

But at a time when Scottish society is witnessing convulsions of social and political change, all requiring greater oversight and social engagement, perhaps we media folks need to be thinking about what we are going to do about it.

 

Jim Chisholm is a former director of the Scottish Newspaper Society and advises leading media organisations world wide on strategic development.

jim@jimchisholm.net. +44777581797

[1] Readership Figures: UK National Readership Survey Jan-Dec 2014

[2] Online figures: UK NRS PADD Jan-Dec 2014

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