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Wings Over Scotland

Didn’t read the news today, oh boy

Posted on November 12, 2011 by

The latest Scottish circulation figures for UK print media are out, and perhaps to nobody’s great surprise they show a continuing sharp decline, as well as the breaking of a significant barrier – for the first time, total daily sales of newspapers in Scotland have slumped below a million, at 986,657 (down from 1,078,544 in the previous period).

The Herald and Scotsman both show heavy falls (13.2% and 8.3% respectively), and while the Herald still holds a clear lead over its broadsheet rival the gap has closed slightly, from 11,000 to 8000. The story is different for the Sunday versions, with the Sunday Herald (which underwent a dramatic format change during the period, from a traditional paper to a magazine-style offering) losing a whopping 31% (down to just 29,000), while Scotland On Sunday lost a more modest 9%, down to 46,000, doubling its lead over its rival from 9000 to 18,000.

Over in tabloid territory things are much the same, with the Daily Record dropping 9%, losing further ground to the Scottish Sun which dropped just 6% and now leads its once-dominant rival by a hefty 47,000 copies a day. (More than the entire daily circulation of the Herald.)

There are falls across the board (the bizarre Scotophobia of the Independent now finds just 7,000 daily takers north of the border), with one exception – the closure of the News Of The World has seen huge jumps for most of the tabloid Sundays. The People leaps 85%, the Sunday Mirror 83% and the Star more than doubles its sales, with a 120% boost taking it past both SoS and the Sunday Herald to just under 60,000.

Perhaps the most interesting thing, though, is that the traditional Sunday tabloids of choice in Scotland – the Sunday Post and the Sunday Mail – see nothing of this benefit. The Mail picks up just 3%, and the Post actually manages to drop 1% despite the loss of their major tabloid competition.

However, the big two now comfortably outsell everything else put together (587,000 for the Mail and Post combined, versus 441,000 for the other 11 titles), because many of the NOTW’s readers haven’t moved anywhere else but have simply stopped buying a Sunday paper entirely (or are buying one fewer) – of around 240,000 people who used to buy it, increases in the other Sundays amount to only 70,000 or so, a huge loss to the overall sector of 170,000 sales a week.

The oddest anomaly remains the performance of the two Daily Mail titles, which both fall but narrowly stay above six figures, and outsell their respective daily and Sunday equivalents on the Herald and Scotsman added together. This perhaps tells us more about the Mail’s true position on the tabloid-broadsheet spectrum than anything more significant, but it’s still a jarring statistic in a Tory-hostile nation.

What political conclusions can we draw from this? In the absence of website readership figures, perhaps not many. But it seems clear that the attention of the Scottish public is being drawn increasingly away from printed media and towards the internet. That’s an area where the nationalists have several years of a head start in terms of presence – the online communities of even staunchly Unionist papers like the Scotsman and Record are dominated by the pro-SNP camp – and it’ll be interesting to see if the opposition can do anything to catch up.

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