Recommended Link: Would Scottish paper go online-only?

First published in November 2011

The Scotsman

Print circulations are slumping across the board in the newspaper industry, but would any title ever dare go online only, and put all its energy into building a successful internet venture? The Guardian might be the hottest contender for such a move, its website achieving readership figures its print edition could never have dreamed of. But, perhaps, we should look North of the border for another contender.

Well, that’s what Scottish Review editor Kenneth Roy has been musing about recently, noting that the new boss of The Scotsman publisher The Johnston Press, Ashley Highfield, is a digital dude not a newspaper man. Joining the Scottish publishing group from Microsoft, his media credentials are mainly BBC based, and centre on various of the Beeb’s digital ventures.

Roy notes Highfield’s not coming to Johnston cheaply – he arrives with what the Scottish Review man labels a ‘golden hiya’ in £500,000 in shares. Will Highfield justify his high cost by making Johnston’s news business truly revolutionary, ie the first online-only newspaper? After all, the firm’s Edinburgh broadsheet, which once routinely sold over 80,000 copies daily, had sales of just 38,787 a day last month.

This is all very idle speculation, but Roy postulates: “Sooner or later – probably sooner – a serious newspaper in Britain will ditch print, giving it up as a lost cause, and go for broke online. Could it be the Guardian, which in print is sinking faster in the west than most of its rivals, but has an internet-savvy readership? Or might we see some pre-emptive strike north of the border – Mr Highfield, anxious to justify his golden hiya, leading the dear old Scotsperson into some revolutionary reincarnation? Stranger things have undoubtedly happened”.

Read his full piece here.