BBC Scotland goes behind the scenes of the shared newsroom of three Scottish daily newspapers in a two-part television documentary series, The Papers
, which debuts tonight (18 September) at 9pm.
As UK journalists increasingly face the threat of more redundancies, and editors fight for their newspaper's survival in a content-hungry world, The Papers
follows the staff of The Herald
, the Nationa
l and Evening Times
in their Glasgow HQ over several months, as they battle to cover one of the biggest political stories of a generation – Brexit – while juggling the demands of keeping up with a rolling news agenda in print and online. The three titles face an increasing uphill struggle to stay relevant, as readers turn their back on traditional news platforms to consume content via a digital device.
The first episode sees the Brexit saga reach fever pitch while The Herald
titles are working on launching new Sunday versions. Key meetings are held about further cuts as the editorial staff, already stretched to the limit, continue the business of gathering in and presenting the news. An assistant editor, Andy Clark, comments philosophically: 'Things don't stop. You just find a way to do more'.
In episode two on 25 September, staff of The Herald
and Evening Time
s make the switch to rolling digital content under its new young digital editor, Stephen McIlkenny. Daily title, the National,
which launched after the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, is ahead of the digital curve under its editor Callum Baird. Meanwhile, budget cuts are starting to bite hard – especially on Newsquest's flagship Scottish daily newspaper The Herald
Incidentally, the transfer of the BBC's very successful national radio podcast, Brexitcast
, to embrace a television audience on BBC One last Thursday night, attracted more than one million viewers – an impressive figure for a late-night politics programme. It continues on BBC One Scotland every Thursday at 11.35pm until further notice.
There is no respite for three of Scotland's top-selling newspapers in the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) year-on-year print circulation figures for August. The Sunday Mail's
circulation – 112,499, was down 14% year-on-year; the Daily Record
dropped 12% to 111,829; and the Sunday Post
continues a wretched run with a figure of 94,732, which was down 17%. We don't have circulation figures for Scotland's other daily and Sunday newspapers as they report their figures by other means than ABC.
On the UK newspaper front, The Sun
remains the best-selling paid-for national newspaper with an average daily circulation of 1.3m, despite a 12% drop in August. The Daily Mail
is close on its heels on 1.2m sales and has set new retail market share records for its weekday, Saturday and Sunday editions despite an overall 8% decline. Associated Newspapers' two titles are holding up extremely well.
On a Saturday, the Daily Mail
is the best-selling newspaper in Britain, with a bigger average circulation than The Sun
by about 256,000 copies, reaching a new high of 29.4% of the entire national Saturday newspaper market. Its stablemate, the Mail on Sunday
, sold an average 979,169 copies in August – down 8%, but only 102,557 behind the UK's top-selling Sunday newspaper – the Sun on Sunday
– 1,081,726 (-12%). The free Metro
has the largest circulation of any UK newspaper at 1.4m copies, but even a free title is not immune to the falling circulation syndrome. It is down 4%.
, whose average daily sale in August was 128,265 copies, had the smallest year-on-year circulation decline – 5%, for the second year in a row. Here are the circulation figures for the so-called 'quality' national newspapers: the Sunday Times
– 655,103 (down 9% year-on-year); The Times
– 371,559 (-13%); the Daily Telegraph
– 315,270 (-15%); the Daily Express
– 305,629 (-10%); the Sunday Telegraph - 249,425; i
– 228,754 (-6%); Financial Times
– 162,972 (-7%); The Observer
– 155,465 (-6%); and City AM free – 76,030 (-9%).
Readers of women's magazine have had a rough few years, and Yomi Adegoke writing in The Guardian
reports: 'Every few months another titan falls and... we are mourning the UK print edition of Marie Claire
which, at 31, has had its life cut short by the prolific killer "social media". Its other victims include Lucky
and InStyle UK
. It is an epidemic. Cosmopolitan
saw its print circulation drop by a third in the last half of 2018; weeklies Woman
and Woman's Own
were down 20% and 19% respectively. Now
magazine dropped 43%'.
Adegoke says that the demise of women's mags would once have been met with jubilation by some feminists. Although they were a space for women in the media, they were often a toxic one: 'the circling of celebrity cellulite, the reinforcement of white beauty standards, the endless sex tips focused on every orgasm but your own, only further entrenched misogyny. But, by and large, this is not a representation of women's magazines today. The closure of Teen Vogue's
print publication was met with widespread outrage, after we had watched the magazine mature into a politically engaged tome for pubescent readers who cared about fashion, but also wanted to ensure that the climate crisis hadn't scorched the world in which it could exist.
'The sad thing is that the current purge is happening at a time when women's magazines are less sexist and more progressive than they ever have been. What is happening to women's magazines is simply a reflection of an industry-wide problem. But in a media landscape that tends to characterise interests generally associated with men as "news" while women's issues are often shoehorned into "lifestyle" pullouts and supplements, their absence is keenly felt and and their presence still very much needed.'
Media industry website, Press Gazette, reports that there has been a net loss of seven national print magazines in the UK in the past five years. After undertaking a comprehensive analysis, the website reveals that 22 magazines have closed since August 2014, while 15 have been launched.
Press Gazette pointed out that: 'Last year saw the most UK print magazine closures (eight titles) and launches (six titles) of the five-year period. Half of the closed titles were specifically targeted at women, such as parenting, wedding and celebrity magazines'. Regional magazine titles were excluded from the survey, but it is estimated that there have been a net loss of 18 local titles.
Of the 22 national print magazine closures, Press Gazette explains: 'three were the last holdout of the lads' magazine era – FHM
, and Loaded
– suffering from societal changes and subsequent falls in circulation. Five of the closures – NME
– were blamed on falls in circulation and they were no longer commercially viable'.
The 15 launches included Football Weekends
, Vegan Living
, Film Stories
, TV Years
, The Face
and Simply You
. The figures do not include titles launched and closed within the 2014-2019 period, such as women's weekly OMG
and men's lifestyle weekly Coach
In the first half of 2014, according to the Press Gazette's comprehensive analysis, the almost 200 UK consumer magazines audited by ABC saw an average circulation drop of 5.8% year-on-year. However, by June 2019 the average fall in print circulation was 6.2% year-on-year.
I must admit my personal sadness at the mention of the closure of the NME,
which in an earlier life was the New Musical Express,
weekly newspaper/magazine on the pop music industry in the 1960s and 1970s, with the Melody Maker
always chasing its tail. I did reviews for NME
of top UK acts playing in Aberdeen's Capitol Theatre and they were a jolly bunch to work for. Who says nostalgia is a thing of the past?