Further decline in Scottish newspaper sales

A selection of newspapers Sales of most newspapers have fallen substantially in recent years, north and south of the border

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Scottish newspaper sales have fallen by an average 11% over the past year.

Several of them have seen their sales fall by more than half in the past decade.

But there are new figures showing growing online readership, at least for some publishers.

The only Scots-based title to see its print circulation rising in the past year has been the Paisley Daily Express, with an increase since 2012 of 10%.

According to the industry's Audit Bureau of Circulation, the Renfrewshire paper saw sales rise to nearly 7600 in the year to June.

The least severe faller was the Press & Journal, based in Aberdeen, for which circulation was down 5% to 65,500.

But there were sharp declines for the Scotsman, now classified as a "regional" title. Comparing with its 'national' data last year, its print sales have fallen 17%, to 31,300.

Advertisers

Of those, 2500 were bulk sales which reduce the paper's value to advertisers.

Biggest fallers

  • Scotland on Sunday - 20%
  • The Scotsman - 17%
  • Evening News (Edinburgh) - 15%
  • Evening Times (Glasgow) - 15%

Its weekly sister paper, Scotland on Sunday, was down 20% to 37,400.

And its Edinburgh city title, the Evening News, was one of the bigger fallers at 15%, reaching 30,200.

Meanwhile, separate figures for the online readership of scotsman.com were up. The free-to-access web service saw a rise in daily browsers of 13%, according to ABC, reaching 120,000.

However, the failure to transform such figures into advertising revenue have led to a decline in the value of the titles owned by Johnston Press, the Edinburgh-based company which includes the Scotsman among more than 200 mainly local titles.

The company announced on Wednesday that it is writing down the asset valuation of its newspapers by nearly £200m.

The Herald, based in Glasgow, had sales for the first half of this year of 41,000, down by 10%. Its online readership rose steeply to 63,700 browsers per day.

Digital revolution

John McLellan, editor-designate of the Scottish Newspaper Society said some titles have been responding to changing market conditions for 20 years of the digital revolution: "The truth is that while we can't deny there are challenges so far as hard copy sales are concerned, the journalism produced by all newspaper companies is being accessed by more people than ever."

He said that while there are tough conditions for the highly-competitive Scottish central belt markets, there are greater strengths to papers serving communities in the north and north-east.

And as Scottish newspapers face the next year of covering the Scottish independence referendum, Mr McLellan commented: "I don't have any fear about the ability of newspapers to cover the referendum in a way that satisfies the readers.

"The bigger question over the next year is: how much can the readers stomach, not how much can the newspapers produce?"

Change

Prof Raymond Boyle, a communications expert at Glasgow University, commented on the state of the industry: "Traditionally, Scottish newspapers have been a very important part of Scottish national identity. That's changed over the past 10 to 15 years.

"Certain sectors remain very strong; sport, for example, and football remains an important part of Scottish newspapers and their identity. But the sense of newspapers being carriers of national identity is no longer sustainable.

"And that tells us something about how we're changing, and how people's patterns of media consumption are changing. Newspapers have been slow to recognise that and adapt."

On the referendum debate, Prof Boyle said: "The danger of the move online of the debate and discussion is it's the converted speaking to the converted.

"Newspapers remain one part of a broader way we get access to information about what's going on."

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