The News of the World and the Sun are measuring up Scotland.
Can the Sun and the News of the World make further progress in Scotland?
News International obviously believes that they can - and last week it
revealed plans to appoint a local agency to work alongside the titles’
London shop, Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow and Johnson, to give added
impetus to marketing efforts north of the border (Campaign, 12 April).
The Sun’s steady progress in Scotland has been a great mystery to many.
According to conventional wisdom, tabloid-buying Scots are red-in-tooth-
and-claw Old Labour and have been totally impervious to the ‘Basildon
factor’ - a shift to the right among the English working classes that
coincided with the rise of the Sun.
And then there’s the other old chestnut - the Scotland of austere,
pinched morality, the Scotland where even the Catholics are Presbyterian
when it comes to page-three pin-ups. The Scots don’t like fun
newspapers, that’s why they read the Daily Record. It’s the Daily Mirror
in a time warp, a paper many people still miss - a sincere,
compassionate, campaigning newspaper.
With a daily sale in Scotland of just under 700,000 (its UK sale is
higher, due to its popularity in the north of England), the Record is
read by a spectacular 47 per cent of Scotland’s four million plus
population. Unassailable? News International has never thought so. When
it introduced a truly Scottish edition in the late 80s, the Sun’s
circulation began to take off. Two years ago it hit on a winning
One day it was running editorials attacking the very idea of devolution,
the next it had a front page resplendent with saltires, rampant lions
and awash with nationalist fervour. A spectacular conversion - but not
as cynical as some have made out. Nationalism sits quite happily
alongside the Little Englander mentality that the paper has reflected
south of the border.
The Sun is bought by 370,000 in Scotland - roughly the same proportion
of the population that buys it south of the border - and an increase of
70,000 in five years. It has strengthened its management in Scotland and
has plans to offer more Scottish pagination to both readers and
Can it really hope to make further headway in Scotland? Colin
McClatchie, the general manager of News International’s Scottish
operation, is confident that he can continue to steal readers from the
Record. ‘Up here it’s different from the UK in that there is more
potential cross-over between the likes of the Sun and the Daily Express.
The Record is obviously the target though and it is clearly in decline.
We have a powerful formula and we are about to deliver a stronger
The Sun already outsells the Record in some areas, but can it take it on
in the Record’s western Strathclyde heartland? Christine Tulloch, the
media director of Faulds Advertising, is positive about the Sun’s
prospects. ‘There is little concrete evidence to substantiate this view,
but I feel that the Record could be vulnerable. It has been top dog for
more than a decade but I think it lost its way a bit - its last branding
campaign was a mistake. I think it went over the heads of its potential
Tulloch argues that Scotland’s political shift towards nationalism has
suited the Sun and perhaps, as a result, the Record has begun to look
tired. The problem that the Sun faces is that its circulation has
levelled off and it hasn’t been able to push through the 400,000 mark.
‘The current management in Glasgow know the Scottish market back to
front and it’s clear that News International in Wapping is committed to
moving things on again,’ Tulloch states. ‘It will never see the huge
circulation increases of ten years ago, but a new marketing perspective
on the Sun could keep pushing it forward.’