Those with a nervous disposition about the state of Scotland’s indigenous newspapers should look away now… the latest industry circulation figures just published are, frankly, the worst ever.
Even the Sunday Herald, the star of the show six months ago because of its support for the SNP, has lost 22% of its circulation and is almost back to where it started.
But the most astonishing story again concerns The Scotsman which now sells just 689 copies more than the Scottish edition of The Times.
This means that if the decline of The Scotsman continues at its current pace, The Times will be outselling it in Scotland within six months.
The Scotsman is down 13.5% to an average daily sale of 22,740 compared to The Times sale in Scotland of 22,051.
Naturally, the word “sale” is ambiguous because both papers rely heavily on cheaper subscriptions and free copies delivered to places such as hotels and trains.
The true full price sale for The Scotsman is just 14,249 while the same figure for The Times in Scotland is 13,670 — a difference of just 579 copies.
Who would have believed even a few years ago that The Times would overtake The Scotsman on its own territory?
Ironically, the man from Spain who introduced new typefaces to The Scotsman just a few months ago, and who was so pleased with himself, has done nothing to stop the paper’s decline.
But any experienced editor will tell you that only newspapers in trouble get redesigns and, crucially, what really matters is changing the content, not the look.
These figures also demonstrate the ludicrous claims of The Scotsman’s owner, Johnston Press, that the paper is in its “Uber” class.
Before the New Year, Johnston Press had been touting The Scotsman around for £10 million when those who understood the business reckoned it might fetch £4 million.
Soon they may have to give it away particularly since it is now competing with the “i” newspaper which Johnston Press bought last month for £24 million. But who would take it on?
Over in Glasgow, the latest figure for The Herald is 32,141 which is down 13.2% on the previous six months. But at least that number contains only 428 sales below the full cover price.
Even so, The Herald continues to drop as fast as The Scotsman.
The Herald’s stablemate The National, the SNP supporting paper launched 16 months ago in the wake of the independence referendum, is managing an official daily sale of just 12,124.
This figure has to be regarded as a huge disappointment given the scale of political support the paper had hoped for. Perhaps the problem is that it’s a propaganda sheet with little substance produced with half a shoestring.
As has been pointed out in previous ScotBuzz articles, even those bastions of right-wing thinking The Times and the Daily Telegraph both sell more in Scotland than The National can ever hope to achieve.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail, the voice of middle England and no fan of Scottish independence, maintains its sale in Scotland of 86,503.
It used to be said that the Mail’s sale in Scotland was the same as The Scotsman and The Herald combined.
Now it outsells them both by 31,622 copies a day.
Scotland’s top-selling daily newspaper remains that other London-based right-wing stalwart the Sun at 218,069 against the Labour-supporting Daily Record now down to a miserable 176,625.
What can we conclude from all of this?
Some Scottish readers can choose from 19 different dailies if we include the free Metro and the two regional Scottish dailies The Press and Journal and The Courier which both continue to outsell The Scotsman and The Herald with circulations of 56,422 and 43,031 respectively.
To compete in this saturated marketplace, only those papers with the most distinctive and original content which readers enjoy and find essential, appear to be maintaining their place.
Those newspapers which fail to achieve this criteria, no matter how pretty they are, appear doomed.
Neither does it matter that the most popular newspapers in Scotland are headquartered in London and follow a political stance which is the reverse of what the majority of Scottish readers believe.
Crucially, the “Scottishness” of The Scotsman, The Herald and the Daily Record no longer appear to matter.