Scotland business

Sunday Herald relaunches format

Sunday Herald newspaper
Image caption No target circulation has been announced for the new-look Sunday Herald

The Sunday Herald newspaper has undergone a change by re-launching as a single-section news magazine.

Scotland was often described as a great newspaper-reading nation and has one of the most competitive newspaper markets in the world.

But the country has only had its own quality press on Sundays in relatively recent times.

Historically, the Sunday Mail and the Sunday Post dominated the market.

The Post was once so widely read it had a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Until the 1970s the mid-market Scottish Sunday Express helped bridge the gap between the popular Scottish tabloids and the highbrow London titles such as The Sunday Times and The Observer.

The first attempt at a Scottish Sunday broadsheet was the Sunday Standard - also published by the company which owned what was then called the Glasgow Herald.

This paper appeared between 1981 and 1983 and is widely remembered now as an editorial success but a commercial failure.

Scotland on Sunday was launched in 1988 and at its peak in the late 1990s sold about 130,000 copies.

Scottish editions

Around the same time as Scotland on Sunday was launched, The Sunday Times and The Observer began to publish distinct Scottish editions.

Today Scotland on Sunday sells 52,000 copies in Scotland and a few thousand more in the rest of the UK.

Last year The Sunday Times scaled back its Scottish edition dramatically, although it still sells almost 60,000 copies north of the border. Arguably, The Observer's Scottish edition has been little more than a token effort for several years.

With sales of about 42,000, the National Union of Journalists says the Sunday Herald's owner Newsquest had wanted local management to close the title.

The relaunch as a news magazine is, it is rumoured, an attempt to give it a sustainable future.

The company has not commented on these claims but some at the Sunday Herald point out that they have had to live with claims from sceptics that the title would not last since the start.

However, such a radical relaunch is definitely a gamble. It could prove a success which other newspapers may emulate, or come to be seen as a brave final throw of the dice by a paper determined to survive.

As the Sunday Herald is a relatively young paper, its readers are less likely to be resistant to change than some of those who have bought the same paper all their life. That does not necessarily mean, however, that they will like the changes.

New format

The move to a single-section format bucks a trend in journalism going back decades. Most quality newspapers - on Sundays and weekdays - are now split into distinct sections and it is common to share different parts of newspapers around a family.

A single-section format makes this impossible. But others believe there could be a niche for a serious paper in a more concise and compact form.

Editor Richard Walker has been quick to dispel suggestions the new magazine format means the title will not report on Saturday's news and sport.

This will still be an important part of the mix, although there will be more emphasis than before on analysis, opinion and in-depth articles.

But the paper, which will normally have 92 pages, does challenge some preconceptions about what sort of content a Sunday paper needs to offer.

For instance, it won't include television listings for the whole week - a staple of many Saturday and Sunday papers since the mid-1990s.

No target circulation has been announced for the new-look Sunday Herald but the sales figures over the next few months will reveal whether the title is hitting the mark.

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