Race for online readers hots up in Scotland

It happened without ceremony, but Trinity Mirror stole a march on its rivals this week when their first official Online Editor took his seat at Central Quay to oversee the digital presence of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail.

So low key was the appointment that even some senior executives were surprised to learn that he was starting when I asked what they thought of the move last week.

But, by all accounts, they are likely to soon appreciate the talents of Iain Hepburn who carries on the fine work of ramping up the websites which has recently been transformed beyond recognition from the previous half-assed incarnation by a small team led by the Record’s Ewan Watt.

As his former colleague Craig McGill at Cluttered Desk (ironically currently playing a blinder at the Scottish Sun) points out, Iain is one of those rare breeds in digital journalism who plied his trade at the sharp end first.

Other former colleagues at his last post with The Mirror speak warmly and appreciatively of his time there, and by all accounts, it sounds like the Record/Sunday Mail may very well have landed something of s coup hiring him.

But Iain has a big, big job ahead.

According to those within Central Quay, management are looking to score a cool £10 million a year from advertising across the sites he is now in charge of.

No small feat at the best of times, especially when trying of find new ways of driving readers from print to web without harming the core titles, not least the Record which is already contending against Record PM in the company’s bid to ensure that advertising is king.

But could this multi-platform attack really be the right strategy in the long run?

I’ve already speculated on this blog whether or not the Trinity Mirror bosses may be bold enough to risk making the Daily Record the first national to go free, based on its current business model.

The industry has already seen the Manchester Evening News go part of the way, while The Independent were quick – some would say maybe a bit too quick – to knock down similar speculation in the past week that it was about to do the same.

Clearly the internet presence is a cornerstone of what the Daily Record and Sunday Mail hopes to achieve which makes Iain’s job crucial – and the other heads of departments will be asked and ordered to be as accommodating as possible.

His biggest fight though will be against the Scottish Sun who, rumour has it, are already recruiting for their own launch in Scotland as none of its indigenous content is currently available on the main link – unless deemed a UK story.

June has been identified as the most likely date for the launch, but with the Daily Record/SundayMail leading the way north of the Border – and the Sun’s circulation lead over their red top rival diminishing – who would bet against that being brought forwards.

And when it does, will enjoy the kind of spat we witnessed between The Sun and The Mirror over exclusive photographs appearing on both sites.

The prospect of an enhanced Scottish online presence for the big two also throws up a question in terms of content provision.

With newsdesks already being criticised over paying low fees for print, how many will be prepared to pay twice for the same story to appear online too?

Or will they simply try to flex their muscle and force the agencies to make do with one fee for multi-platform use?

Interesting times ahead, all round.

Categories: Blogs

3 replies

  1. Well, thank you for those kind words, Shaun, and I hope I can actually live to that sort of billing!

  2. Another question regarding agencies is the question of who is going to provide all this extra multimedia content for websites?
    Will agencies provide audio, video or anything else when they are going to be getting fees that they don’t even like for print?

  3. Trinity’s new S&UN websites are due to go live in March too. John Hutcheson is the new online editor.

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