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.

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  Comments: 6

  1. Looking forward to the day The Scotsman goes under. An embarrassment to Scotland.

  2. Paul F Cockburn

    “…only those papers with the most distinctive and original content which readers enjoy and find essential, appear to be maintaining their place.”

    Er, isn’t that one of the fundamentals of commercial publishing?

    Certainly, it appears to be something that Johnston Press have forgotten.

  3. AFewHomeTruths

    There is nothing Scottish about the Scotsman, Herald or Record, which published the purdah breaking undelivered fraudulent vow of Home Rule.

    You say of the National, “perhaps the problem is that it’s a propaganda sheet with little substance produced with half a shoestring.’

    Every other paper is a propaganda sheet and that is why so many are failing. The endless SNPBad fairy tales are losing thousands of extra sales in a country where despite that TNS(IPSOS MORI) just published that 60% will vote SNP in May. Among under 65s the figure was 69%.

    The National’s problem is that SNP voters don’t trust it for several reasons. It’s a stablemate of the Herald. It publishes several pages of uncritical come home to Labour nonsense if Labour run a campaign. It gives instant serious treatment to any non SNP group even if newly formed and with no significant members or support or prospects. It does have writers who can produce the kind of material that we would support but appears to be a device to subsidise the anti Scottish herald & target an audience for periodic re-direction back to Labour.

    If you KNOW with absolute certainty you won’t go back ever that is not what you want. This year Labour will keep some seats only because they run TV, press propaganda & PR. Next year they get wiped from the Councils. That just leaves Scottish Trades Unions to secede. Labour’s power base is gone forever.

    it’s a shame about the papers but they made their own beds and can’t stop lying on them.

  4. If The Scotsman was a football club, the supporters would re revolting, demanding that the manager is sacked, and the chairman sells up, But in this case the shareholders have no interest in a beautiful game, or the interest of the spectators, Their only focus is lining their own pockets, with dividends and implausable remuneration,

    As John McGurk points out the fans are leaving in droves, and the commentators are pouring derision on the management,

    But the future of Scotland, in these volatile times, is more than a game. For decades The Scotsman could be relied on to fight for its readers and for Scotland. Today it is fighting for its life,

    Now it is time that its supporters - remaining and lost readers, business people, politicians, academics - must take action:

    Rather than be milked into oblivion’ The Scotsman and its sister titles should be sold - at a fair price - to a Trust, in the hands of people who appreciate the role of a strong news media, and have the competence to ensure that it represents its readers and the wider population in perpetuity,

    The Campaign to “Save The Scotsman” from extinction, should start today,

  5. The problem with the National is not the shoestring budget. It is the excessive space given to radicals with a variation on the SNPBad script. It may not be the Labour script but it is still SPBad. Much of it is supported by unquestioned assertions that do not stand up under scrutiny. Tedious.

    The people of Scotland wanted a centrist newspaper to give them information and let them decide. The National aint it.

  6. Jonathan Rimmer

    I appreciate that not everyone will appreciate The National’s editorial stance, but in suggesting it has no substance I’m assuming you haven’t read it recently.

    Today’s Scottish Six segment was fantastic journalism. Every single piece was extensive and informative - the only piece I remember on the SNP was actually quite critical. Most the coverage was devoted to the refugee crisis/

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