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Publisher debates website changes with former editor

The new head of digital content at Johnston Press has entered into a debate over the new-look Scotsman website with its former editor.

Scotsman Publications unveiled the new site with enhanced search functionality and streamlined navigation last week.

It attracted some strongly-worded criticism from the site’s former editor, Stewart Kirkpatrick, who said it “looked like something we left on the cutting room floor in 2001.”

But Alex Gubbay, JP’s recently-appointed head of digital content, responded by describing the changes as a “step forward” although he acknowledged the site was “far from the finished article.”

Stewart, who edited from 2000 – 2007, is now running an online-only venture called the Caledonian Mercury.

He voiced his criticisms in an article on Glasgow-based website The Drum which specialises in Scottish media coverage.

He wrote:  “I accessed the new on an iPad just after I’d used The Times app. The Hootsmon looked old and tired in comparison, as befits something akin to a design we left on the cutting room floor in 2001.

“Digital has moved on since then so it is simply not good enough that now looks a bit like it did ten years ago.

“There are very clever and talented people at The Scotsman. But their inventiveness never seems to reach the final online product.

“Just take a look at the ads on the new site. Bingo? Unsecured loans? Come on, people. This is The Scotsman, not the Craphampton Bugle.”

Responding in the article’s comments section, Alex wrote:  “I do appreciate where you are coming from, and would accept that the site is far from the finished article.

“To that end, we have further changes planned to introduce in the coming months, both in terms of some of the specific aspects you mention and other key areas of development.

“For my part, I do genuinely believe the changes this week are a step forward from the previous version.

“But hopefully also just the start of lots more positive iterations to the website and broader digital initiatives to come from The Scotsman.”

Announcing the changes last week, Scotsman Publications said the new design combined more space for news, sport and business content with improved use of images.

The company also highlighted enhanced search function, streamlined navigation and more opportunity for users to leave comments.

Managing director Andrew Richardson said:  “This is an important stage in the evolution of, allowing us to offer a better experience for consumers.

“Initial feedback on the Beta site was very encouraging, and there will be further changes and innovations in the coming months.”