The Scotsman: Print is not going anywhere anytime soon

Frank O’Donnell, The Scotsman’s editor-in-chief, talked about the brand’s 200-year anniversary, its digital growth and how its editorial team produces content at Tuesday’s Cision media briefing.

Launched in 1817 by William Ritchie and Charles Maclaren, The Scotsman is now distributed throughout Scotland with a current print circulation of 22,740. Its online and mobile sites receive 10 million page views per month, on average.

O’Donnell is also editorial director of the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday and runs an editorial team that produces content for all three titles – in print and online.

In conversation with Philip Smith, Cision’s head of content marketing and communications, he talked about his plans for The Scotsman, its digital reach and the loyalty and passion of its readers.

The Scotsman takes pride in being part of its community

The “national newspaper of Scotland” is celebrating its 200th birthday. But according to O’Donnell, that’s only one of the reasons the title is special.

“It’s special because of the city (Edinburgh) we are in,” he said. “The readers are really loyal – they care very passionately about the title. When you make a change in the paper, they are very, very quick to tell you what they think about it. That’s incredible, that’s passion.”

He added: “I want Scotland to be a country that does well. I want our businesses to do well. I want our trains to run on time, our buses to run on time.”

A third of the title’s digital audience comes from overseas

O’Donnell said digital media has had a big impact on The Scotsman, as people want to know what is happening in the country.

“A third of our audience online comes from overseas. I know when I worked overseas I always felt a little bit more Scottish than I do here,” he joked. “My accent seemed to become a little bit stronger!”

But although digital and social media allows it to reach new audiences across Scotland and internationally, he argued that print is still important.

“Print is not going to go away any time soon, I can assure you of that,” he said.

Dos and don’ts when pitching to the editorial team

While the team does produce content for The Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday, they all communicate regularly. For reporters on The Scotsman, the day can start at 6am with key news meetings at 11am and 3.30pm.

“Don’t phone three times!” O’Donnell recommended. “If [a pitch] can’t be sold successfully in a brief email then it probably isn’t a story.”

The best stories have a human angle

Melissa Clark, account manager at Indigo, was in the audience at the event and praised O’Donnell for speaking so candidly about the highs and lows of the industry.

She said: “What a fantastic event. It’s rare you get the chance to hear from an editor in person, speaking so candidly about both the highs and lows of the industry. His focus on the positives was extremely encouraging, especially as we enter an increasingly digital age.”

“I left with a better understanding of how to continue work with journalists to get stories for my clients out there,” she added. “Focusing on the human side of stories and building on my relationships with journalists.”

Louise Robertson, associate at Message Matters, agreed: “Frank O’Donnell’s frank and honest views on editing a national newspaper made for a really interesting session. I found his views on exclusivity of stories versus general release to be insightful, as well as his views on pitching stories in a digital era.”

  • Picture credit: Alan S. Morrison, ASM Media & PR
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