Scotsman 200: Adverts and sales are still the paper's lifeblood

Staff behind the scenes and in front of the customer are key to success, writes Anna Dove

The Scotsman on sale during the Edinburgh Festival.

For 200 years The Scotsman has served as a platform for journalists to showcase their work, voice opinions and report the news. But beyond the editorial floor, it is The Scotsman’s sales team, advertising department, technicians and printers who have worked tirelessly to put the paper out.

The Cockburn Street and North Bridge offices housed compositors, page layout artists and the hot metal workers of the printing press days.

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Before pneumatic tubes were installed, copy boys would run up and down the flights of stairs, carrying stories from the reporters to the subs and from the subs to the caseroom, where they would arrive on sheets of bromide paper ready to be cut, run through a glue machine and fitted onto the pages like a puzzle.

The introduction of computers translated into The Scotsman becoming a far leaner, more streamlined operation.

The Cockburn Street and North Bridge offices housed a small army of compositors, page layout artists and the hot metal workers of the printing press days, when copy boys would run up and down the flights of stairs, carrying stories from the reporters to the subs and from the subs to the caseroom. But through advances in desktop publishing, many of the traditional roles have become obsolete across the newspaper industry and the role of IT staff has steadily grown.

Advertising and promotion are as essential today as ever. Working alongside the journalists at the current Orchard Brae House offices, a large advertising department secures revenue for the title, and the newspaper sales team supports the wholesale and distribution side of the business, the reception staff welcome visitors to the building and the IT team is on hand to keep the systems running smoothly.

Newspaper sales acts as the interface between wholesale, distribution and the retailers stocking The Scotsman.

“We make sure that through the wholesale, the retailer gets the right supply,” says The Scotsman’s senior content sales manager Tina Callcutt. “We make sure posters go out to the retailer and we provide them with support to try to grow subscription. About 30 per cent of our readers subscribe to the paper.”

Street sales teams attend key events throughout the year including the Edinburgh Festival. Up to 40 temporary staff come on board each summer to help grow sales and engage a new and wider audience.

“The Festival is a massive operation. We have to make sure our street sales staff are in the right places selling our paper to the hundreds of thousands of people who are coming into the city,” says Callcutt.

The advertising department has long been an integral part of the production process.

For most of The Scotsman’s history, the front page carried classified advertising rather than headline news, although the founders hadn’t wanted the newspaper to carry any advertisements at all, preferring had wanted to sustain the new venture on cover price alone. But commercial pressures brought compromise, and the first edition carried a range of literary adverts. Before long, adverts progressed to the front page.

When those front page adverts were replaced by exclusives in 1957 it was considered a controversial move by the paper which already had a long history of innovation and pushing boundaries.

“Advertising makes it profitable and sustains us being able to put out a paper every day,” explains The Scotsman’s head of sponsorship and business development, Susan Findlay. “Print advertising is still effective because the readership is loyal, they are constant and advertisers know they take the time to read the paper.”

“People have a real affiliation with The Scotsman as an establishment – it has prestige.”

With new platforms vying for business however, advertising sales is a tough market.

“There are now so many ways for a brand to spend its marketing budget, particularly with digital and social media,” says Findlay.”

“We are one of many people knocking on an advertiser’s door trying to get a share of their marketing spend.”

Commercial opportunities have evolved to meet the demands of an increasingly digital world.

Another constant is the service the advertising teams provide to the community through the announcement of births, deaths and marriages. On top of print advertising, there are digital packages, event sponsorship, partner opportunities and brand promotion through Google or Facebook.

Findlay says: “It’s about tapping into the audiences that a brand is looking to reach at the right time and through the right medium. We are connecting brands with audiences in the right way.”