THE SCOTSMAN IS ON THE MARKET FOR £10 MILLION

JOHN McGURK

Unlike Scotland on Sunday’s “sub core” status, its sister newspaper The Scotsman is in the “uber” class.

This is the description conjured up by its owners who, despite their confidence, have apparently been touting it around with a price tag of £10 million.

Compared to the £160 million Johnston Press paid for its Edinburgh-based newspapers less than ten years ago, it sounds like a bargain.

Alas, there has been no rush to buy.

A friend who knows about these matters confides that the business might be worth around £4 million but that doesn’t take into account the burden of pension liabilities.

It appears that many Johnston Press shareholders are in agreement particularly when you read their comments on the share price chat-lines.

Whereas JPR shares were worth more than £6 back in 2006, after the company embarked on a crazed newspaper spending spree with borrowed money, their value yesterday was just 39.25 pence producing a market capitalisation of £41.88 million.

In its bid for market domination, the company shot itself in the head.

“Sell, sell, sell”…”There’s only one direction and it’s not the boy band”… “Incompetent leadership”…”No shareholder value”…”I can only laugh”…”Time for end-of-year bonuses”

Johnston Press has even joined in the chat itself thanks to someone called Scooby who posted positive comments from the chief executive about the company’s strategy in an obvious attempt to quell any rebellion.

He wrote: “The share price doesn’t reflect the true nature of this business and will come right as our audience continues to grow and our advertisers increasingly appreciate how effective we remain in the digital age.”

The business is still highly profitable. Audiences have never been greater. The company is investing in technology. Editorial and commercial infrastructure is on track.

You have to admire the man particularly when the editorial staff on The Scotsman last week threatened to strike over his latest cost-cutting proposals which would kill off another 32 editorial jobs in Scotland.

According to Press Gazette, the industry’s online news magazine, Johnston Press has shed half of its journalists since 2009 as it has attempted to deal with its debt mountain and a sizeable hole in its pension fund.

But what many folk must wonder is this: how do you produce top-class editorial and expect to attract an audience, either in print or digital, when you’ve got rid of so many journalists, the very people who can originate distinctive material?

The moral of the story of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday is that the most successful newspapers are not run by PLCs but by individuals who actually like the business they’re in.

The two most successful newspaper groups in Britain are essentially owned by families: the Sun, The Times and Sunday Times by Murdoch and the Daily Mail group owned by Rothermere.

Naturally, these are hardly perfect newspapers and they attract their fair share of criticism but in Scotland, the Sun outsells the Daily Record while the Daily Mail outsells The Herald and The Scotsman combined.

Scottish editions of right-wing unionist newspapers headquartered in London are more popular in Scotland than our own indigenous papers despite the fact that this is a nation now dominated by left-wing voters who support independence and the SNP.

Even The National, the newspaper launched in Glasgow to jump on to the SNP bandwagon, reportedly sells around the same as the Scottish editions of The Times or The Daily Telegraph.

Another truth is that Scotland is the most competitive newspaper market in the world where readers can choose a daily paper from 18 competitors.

So trying to make an under-resourced, cash-starved Scottish newspaper stand out from all of the others, and compete against their editorial budgets, is an impossible task.

When a man from Spain recently got the job of modernising the look of The Scotsman, he decided it should return to its roots so he changed the colour of its masthead and thistle back to black.

Perhaps he had seen the Johnston Press masterplan.

jcmcgurk@blueyonder.co.uk

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Feedback

  Comments: 1


  1. Being a very proud part of Bert Hardy’s record breaking team at The Scotsman Publications, it is difficult to see from afar where it all went wrong for both The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday since the late nineties, it cannot go unnoticed by some that Bert Hardy and his executive management team all worked for Murdoch and Rothermere for many years, the success of those companies says it all, the quality of the titles was always paramount, the Editors and Editorial staff were always the best and it showed in what we produced. Only comment to be made is that what John M says ” The moral of the story of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday is that the most successful newspapers are not run by PLC’S but by individuals who actually like the business they are in” without any doubt I can confirm his belief, we all cared and it showed, we were all proud to be part of a great company producing two great newspapers The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday

Letters to the Editor