Sunday, February 7, 1999 Published at 09:08 GMT
Scotland heralds a new Sunday paper
Launching a national newspaper is a precarious business these days. In a shrinking market fighting the onslaught of new digital and televised media the omens are not good for the printed page.
The Sunday Herald, which hit the streets this weekend, is being touted as an obvious show of Scotland's new-found national confidence - epitomised by the legendary Scottish patriot William "Braveheart" Wallace.
The paper arrives only three months before the elections for the new Scottish Parliament.
Demand for a more Scottish-centric media is on the rise - witness calls for the BBC to provide a dedicated Scottish Six O'Clock News.
The Sunday Herald's Associate Editor, Pat Kane, thinks Scotland's buoyant national mood chimes in well with the paper's intentions, although it will not be backing the secessionist Scottish National Party.
"This is a propitious time to launch a Sunday paper here. There has been a lot of cultural and political fermentation in Scotland and this is a clear market opportunity," says Mr Kane.
Management has made great play of the "sixth section" online edition, and Mr Kane - also digital editor - says the Internet site will be key to generating reader involvement. Reporters' e-mail addresses will appear alongside their stories.
Bearing in mind many Internet users only get online at work, Mr Kane says the site will be updated throughout the week with a "virtual vote" and "forum" page to stimulate debate and keep readers coming back.
It is certainly the one to beat. In a time of paranoia and increasing uncertainty in the newspaper business, Scotland on Sunday, a broadsheet, is one of a small handful of recent success stories in the business.
Ironically, Editor of the Sunday Herald, Andrew Jaspan, only has himself to blame. It was under his editorship that Scotland on Sunday recovered from its shaky launch in the late 1980s to mop up in the circulation stakes.
The fact that Mr Jaspan has been busy developing the Herald's new stablemate for almost a year seems to scotch claims it is simply a "spoiler" - an effort to wreck its rival's cosy market dominance.
But Mr Kane sees a clear opportunity in pitching the Sunday Herald "above" Scotland on Sunday.
"Scotland on Sunday has gone for a more mid-market approach, with its transatlantic celebrity agenda. It's not the paper that it once was," he says.
Phillipa Kennedy, Editor of UK Press Gazette, the journalists' trade paper, thinks there is room for both.
Vote of confidence
"I don't see why it shouldn't succeed. They have got very modest ambitions and Scotland is the place at the moment, with the new parliament," she says, referring to the 50,000 target circulation in year one.
Indeed, the Scottish marketplace is more healthy than elsewhere in the UK.
London editors have, on the whole, been fighting a rearguard action for some years. Last November the total daily newspaper market was down more than 150,000 copies a day on the previous year.
In Scotland it is a rosier picture where 65% buy a daily paper (compared with 55% for the UK as a whole) while 76% take a Sunday paper (61% for UK).
Scottish enthusiasm for the printed word has not been lost on London's newspaper barons, who have tried to off-set circulation losses in the 1990s by pumping more cash into their Scottish editions.
The feeling north of the border, though, is that this is simply a mercenary exercise in profiteering, rather than a genuine effort to represent the Scottish people in print.
There are some who feel that the market is fast approaching saturation. The launch of the Sunday Herald will be the first major test of how much room there really is for expansion.