When The Scottish Sun initially overtook its Scottish competitor in August, many predicted that this would be a short lived victory and that The Daily Record, with its firmly established readership, would quickly be back on top.
As time went on however, even the Record itself lost confidence and launched the Daily Record PM in a bid to pick up readers from The Evening Times and Edinburgh Evening News marketplace. It would seem that even the launch of the second newspaper has failed to have quite the desired effect.
This week, The Record announced a restructure, with several redundancies rumoured to be happening, although that was denied by Record management. It was, according to its managing director Mark Hollinshead ‘currently undergoing a management restructure’. The restructure will see the roles of advertising sales head and circulation sales manager dissolved, although Hollinshead is keen to stress the departments are being merged to form a new newspaper sales and marketing department. The objective of the department – which will be managed and led by Lorraine Fraser, who has been promoted to the new position of newspaper sales and marketing director – is to more closely align marketing activity with newspaper sales performance.
The Record’s confidence can’t have been bolstered by the defection of its managing editor, Malcolm Speed – who on retirement – took 41 years of Daily Record experience straight over to The Scottish Sun, where he is to be editorial consultant. The Record has brought in former Scottish Sun assistant news editor, Derek Stewart Brown, to replace him.
According to the most recent ABC figures leading up to 1 October 2006, the Daily Record was selling 390,197 copies a day in Scotland as opposed to The Scottish Sun’s 414,655 copies a day. In comparison, at the same time last year, the Record was selling 419,358 compared to the Sun’s 356,377.
With the Record PM being flagged as the saviour, what’s going on?
David Shearer, deputy managing director of Media Com Scotland thinks the PM has, so far, failed to lift the Record’s figures because it’s too similar to its sister title. “I don’t think it was a solution that was going to happen very quickly,” he says. “I’m not sure that they intended it that way, but it’s not like a price cut situation where you would expect to get back sales immediately. I think Trinity would love to get into a fight with News International but they can’t afford to. But the fact is that the route that they’ve chosen is a much longer term strategy. It’s not going to get immediate results.”
Hollinshead defends the early performance of the PM edition, saying, “We are concentrating on publishing and PM is a good example of that. We are very happy with the early performance, and we’re looking at potential rollout into other key markets. It’s performing ahead of our early expectations; it’s certainly ahead of where we expected it to be at this stage of its development. It’s the start of a long term plan. We’re not going to react in a knee-jerk fashion because of disgruntled news editors who don’t want a bit of competition on their patch. We’re concentrating on publishing and winning a greater share of the advertising market.
“A lot of FMCG-based businesses have their sales and marketing approaches totally synchronised, so rather than having disjointed departments in different parts of the building, we’ve merged them into one so there’s absolute, total accountability for newspaper sales performance amongst the budget holders of the marketing activity as well.”
Colin McLatchie, managing director of News International, while very pleased that The Scottish Sun has sustained its lead says that the paper is also catching the Record on its Saturday sales as well. “That is actually a very good barometer in terms of where we are,” he says. “On Saturdays, both the Sun and the Record are at 55p and this is the only day in which the Record outsells us. Now effectively what has happened in the last year is that the gap between the two, in terms of sales on a Saturday has more than halved. I read into that, more people are sampling the paper on a Monday to Friday basis as a result of it being 10p and clearly those people who are ‘experimenting’ we are holding onto and the fact that we are going up each successive week shows that more people are buying it. Secondly, of those people who are buying it, many of them are being pushed into buying it on Saturday as well where we gaining on the Daily Record.”
Another possible contributory to the sustained lead of the Sun is its links with the Tommy Sheridan case through News International, which following Sheridan’s victory, the Record printed Sheridan’s side of the case, meaning that both papers have been involved in one of Scotland’s biggest court cases of recent times. News of The World recently accused Sheridan of perjury citing tapes as evidence, and the resulting coverage created some of the most notable front pages in recent years.
That said, McLatchie doesn’t believe that the case has had much of an impact in terms of sales figures over recent times. “I wouldn’t have said that there’s any great significance on the Sheridan stuff in the last couple of weeks,” he says. “It produced very good figures on the days when it was in, but then so have many other good stories that we’ve had recently as well. So I wouldn’t pick out Sheridan and say ‘that was by far and away the biggest shares figures’, it’s not.”
LeeAnn Dempster, head of press at Feather Brooksbank, agrees that the Sheridan case has probably had little impact on the overall sales figures of the two competitors. “The circulation of the Sun has been growing month on month so I don’t think that the case has had much to do with it. I think that the identification of the 10p is helping and it’s bolstering the circulation and that’s more of a contributory factor than anything to do with that coverage.
“These two will slug it out in a big way over the next few years. It’s not going to be short-term, and I think they will continue to be at each other as they have been in years gone by. You’ve got two massive brands in Scotland who have got the money and the resources to continue beating each other about the head. The Scottish Sun has struggled to get to this position and they’re not going to let it go lightly.”