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Flagship newspaper should go online only says its former editor

John McGurkA flagship daily newspaper should be put “out of its misery” and taken digital-only – according to its former editor.

John McGurk, pictured left,  made the comments about The Scotsman following the latest round of ABC figures last week, which revealed the Edinburgh-based title’s circulation had dropped by 10.8pc in the second half of last year to 26,283.

The figures also revealed The Scotsman’s website hosted on average 182,499 daily, 950,578 weekly and 3,409,126 monthly browsers during the same time period.

John edited the newspaper between 2004 and 2007, having previously run its two Johnston Press sister titles the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday.

Writing on the Scot-Buzz business news and current affairs website, which he now co-edits, John described The Scotsman as “a potent brand around the world”.

In the piece, headlined “Time to put The Scotsman out of its misery”, he added the advantage of switching to digital-only would be the elimination of “newsprint, production and distribution costs in one fell swoop”, which could then be reinvested into the website.

Wrote John: “The Scotsman no longer makes money; the presses in Edinburgh have been sold off; the staff have been moved out of the Holyrood building into a 1960s office block towards the outskirts of the city and, appropriately, across the road from a cemetery.

“The harsh reality is that lack of resource and precious few editorial staff makes it hugely difficult to produce a newspaper which stands out from the other 16 daily newspapers on sale in Scotland.

“Too many front pages are a summary of the previous night’s television news, a formula for further readership decline.

“Those who continue to produce a paper are to be applauded; there are desperate circumstances to overcome every day and a constant threat of more job losses. The Scotsman is an old friend… it’s miserable and painful to watch it suffer much longer.”

John’s comments today received a robust response from Johnston Press. A spokeswoman said:  “Mr McGurk may want to check his facts before writing off the print version of The Scotsman. It is still profitable and remains one of the flagship titles in the Johnston Press portfolio.

“It has an extremely loyal audience – both in print and online – and a talented team of people working hard to deliver quality content across all platforms.

“The Scotsman plays a key role in delivering daily coverage of Scotland’s news – as well as national and international events – and will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the ever-changing ways people consume news.

“We are, in fact, currently investing in the title to ensure it enjoys a healthy and vibrant future – both online and in print. “

12 comments

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  • March 4, 2015 at 8:00 am
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    The Scotsman was a failure even when McGurk was in charge. Second rate product which attracted a second rate newspaper publisher/destroyer. The Herald was always far superior.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 9:23 am
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    “The harsh reality is that lack of resource and precious few editorial staff makes it hugely difficult to produce a newspaper… Too many front pages are a summary of the previous night’s television news, a formula for further readership decline.”

    There in a nutshell the problem.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 9:24 am
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    “It is still profitable and remains one of the flagship titles in the Johnston Press portfolio.”.
    Relax everyone who still works for JP. They really do love newspapers after all. What a relief!

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  • March 4, 2015 at 10:12 am
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    The Scotsman, nor the flagship The Post, will survive while they share a MD (Helen Oldham). There is now a huge leadership void in Yorkshire since Ms Oldham was asked to do the impossible – trying to run two companies several hundred miles apart.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 10:12 am
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    I’m not an accountant, but if the ex-editor is right, and the Scotsman isn’t making any money, how does it survive? It has a bigger circulation than some daily papers in the JP portfolio so does that mean they are not viable either?

    It is seven years, maybe eight, since Mr McGurk was in the hot seat so does he really have up-to-date knowledge of the Scotsman?. Could things be better than he thinks because of debt refinancing?

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  • March 4, 2015 at 10:30 am
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    The Scotsman may still have “an extremely loyal audience”, but the problem is that precious few of them are young, and few of them will be around for much longer.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 11:55 am
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    It is a vicious circle as when sales decline you cut costs, usually editorial, then the writing quality suffers so even less people want to buy the product. It mirrors so many other areas of society – people don’t go to the cinema or football or rugby to anywhere near the same level they did years ago, they don’t read papers as much, they don’t go to the pub as much. All those industries have suffered dips, yet the population is going up. So what exactly are people doing with their free time? Or is it we’re all too busy in front of small screens to have any? It’s true that fewer young people are buying papers and when they do it’s usually a national, so weeklies and regional dailies have to work harder than ever to survive. But if you lose papers you lose so much, because while they might get 3.5 million browsers a month, they will be looking at two or three stories big stories. They won’t trawl through the online pages for details on a charity fun day or a school green flag award so sooner or later those stories will be dismissed altogether.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm
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    You lot never fail to cheer me up!

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  • March 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm
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    The fact is the title is in deep and now irreversible decline but then again so many are now, things gave changed , ask any newsagent and all will tell you hardly anyone under the age of 25 -30 buys a newspaper at all these days , nothing to do with content, its just that a newspaper is no longer a must buy everyday item these days.24 hour news and the internet have seen to that.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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    It’s a crying shame to see a once great paper in decline.
    When my old man – a proud highlander – first saw my byline in The Scotsman in the 1970s, he thought I had reached the pinnacle of my profession.
    ‘You’ll never get your name in a greater newspaper,’ he said. ‘The Scotsman is the voice of Scotland.’
    In those days, The Scotsman was a true heavyweight, with presence and gravitas aplenty. Its editor was the great Eric McKay, its sports editor the incomparable Ian Wood, its London staff included the excellent Alastair McPherson, Leslie Jerman and Alex McLeod.
    Now its former boss is calling for the print edition to be ‘put out of its misery’, reducing it to a mere flicker on a computer screen.
    Thus, the mighty Scotsman would be like ‘The Wee Squeak’, a tiny highland weekly my dad often referred to affectionately in the old days. Surely not. It can’t be allowed to happen.

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  • March 4, 2015 at 6:47 pm
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    Apologies to Scots readers as this comment is not directly relevant to The Scotsman. However, I am eager to share it.

    I have just read a JP website for a weekly in England. The story was about the President of a county Football Association celebrating his 100th birthday. Presumably that means he was born in 1915.

    The next paragraph said that he had worked for the same company from 1914 to 1965. Not bad, starting work before you were born.

    On top of that, if he is now 100 years of age, retiring in 1965 means he has been retired for 50 years. Surely worth a mention in itself.

    Oh for some old-fashioned subbing and attention to detail.

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  • March 5, 2015 at 8:31 pm
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    JPs disastrous buying of the Scotsman contributed to crippling debts that infected other papers for many years.

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