Sunday newspaper sales in Scotland very much a mixed bag

By Hamish Mackay

December 1, 2011 | 5 min read

Aberdeen journalist Hamish Mackay looks at the Sunday newspaper market in Scotland.

While daily newspaper sales in Scotland have generally declined, year-on-year, there is a much more mixed picture when it comes to the Sunday newspaper market.

There are two complicating factors at play here.There is the sector which has picked up sales from the closure of the News of the World in July.

And there are two Scottish-produced titles – the Sunday Mail and the Sunday Post - which also have a significant sales figure outwith Scotland.

Let’s look at the NoW effect. The Sunday Mail has been one of the beneficiaries with sales up year-on-year in the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures for October. The Trinity Mirror tabloid has upped sales by 2.7% - from 354,396 to 364,090.

Its stablemates have also scored. The People is up 84.8% - from 13,209 to 24,415, and the Sunday Mirror climbed 82.9% - from 21,809 to 39,882.

Express Newspapers have also reaped the benefits, with the Daily Star of Scotland Sunday up a whopping 120% - from 26,889 to 59,325.

It is much more difficult to appraise the middle-market sector. It would appear that the Scottish Sunday Express has picked up sales from the NoW’s demise - -up 24.5% from 35,337 to 43,992.

The Scottish Mail on Sunday figure is more difficult to read - down 1.25% from 105,223 to 103,908, although it said in an editorial promotion story, pointing to an increased sale in October of 3500 on its September figure: …”the crucial six-monthly average sale has also increased by 4.6% from last year and we welcome our 4700 new readers.”

The Sunday Post has long occupied its own highly individual slot. Year-on-year, it is down 0.9%– from 224,471 to 222,522.The Dundee tabloid still has a substantial sale outside Scotland although it has dropped by 3.28% to 316,842.

The Sunday Mail’s comparative figure is 392,775 – an increase of 1.97%.

So to the so-called “quality “market. Three tartan-skirted newspapers have smallish circulations but the Independent on Sunday had an encouraging 9.7% increase from 6317 to 6930.

The Observer dipped 4.2% - from 17,880 to 17,130, and the Sunday Telegraph was down by 3.9% - from 18,339 to 17,628.

The main battle in the Scottish quality market has long been between the Sunday Herald, Scotland on Sunday and the Sunday Times, and it is the circulations here that are most disquieting and depressing.

Not so long ago the Sunday Times was selling close on 80,000 in Scotland. However, since slashing its Scottish editorial staff, in the latest figures it has plunged 11.2% - from 59,501 to 52,838 – not all that far ahead of Scotland on Sunday despite that title taking a 9.2% knock – down from 50,897 to 46,214.

However quite the most dispiriting sale was at the Sunday Herald, which despite its revamp, plunged 31.4% - from 42,111 to 28,873 – a figure which must cast severe doubts on its continued future.

The combined sales of the two indigenous Scottish titles is 75,087 – trailing well behind the combined sales of its four tartan-skirted rivals at 94,526.

Ironically, these latest figures ABC figures were published just before the Sunday Herald was once again recognized and lauded in the European News Awards – a design competition open to newspapers and their magazine across the continent.

In all, the Sunday Herald took five prizes – two for the powerful design and presentation of its front pages and one each in the Special Pages and Visual Storytelling categories. The fifth award was in the Innovation section in recognition of the title’s overall cutting-edge news magazine format.

In total the UK's Sunday newspapers accounted for just fewer than 7.8 million sales a week in October this year. This time last year that figure was 9.4 million and there are clearly many people who have not replaced the NoW with another Sunday alternative.

Here is the full ABC UK national press circulation breakdown for the Sunday newspaper market for last month compared to October last year. It reveals the average sale and percentage change year-on-year.

Daily Star Sunday: 688,058; 97.92

Sunday Mail: 392,775; 1.97

Sunday Mirror: 1,773,627; 56.51

The People: 804,126; 58.14

Sunday Express: 679,265; 23.24

Sunday Post: 316,842; -1.18

The Mail on Sunday: 2,000,251; -1.82

Independent on Sunday: 130,942; -15.17

The Observer: 268,355; -14.39

Scotland on Sunday: 48,569; -9.43

Sunday Herald: 28,990; -31.45

The Sunday Telegraph: 471,894; -6.81

The Sunday Times: 967,990; -8.54


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