Caledonian Mercury: online launch in Scotland

Scotland’s first web-only national daily newspaper launched last night to rival more established players like The Scotsman and The Herald.

The launch of the Caledonian Mercury was pencilled in for this morning but a technical problem led to Scottish Media website AllMediaScotland posting a Twitter bulletin about the new site last night.

The tweet led to a flood of postings forcing editors of the Mercury to launch early.

The new website was set up and will be edited by Stewart Kirkpatrick, who ran the Scotsman’s website from 2000 and 2007.

He will be joined by a string of former colleagues, many of whom are working freelance for the new title whose start-up costs have been financed by Kirkpatrick and his partners at their marketing consultancy W00tonomy.

“It’s mainly freelancers but there are full-time employees as well. I’m not going to say how many,”Kirkpatrick told Press Gazette.

Kirkpatrick said he believed the success of the Caledonian Mercury will lie in a combination of online journalism and an innovative way to use print.

He said: “The first thing is we are keeping our costs really, really tight. And the second thing is we are being innovative about how we use print.

“Print is a big part of our business model. We view a print product as a premium purchase, a desirable object rather than tomorrow’s chip paper.”

The print version will initially be released quarterly and Kirkpatrick is hoping to sell it online.

The site will rely on advertising and sponsorship to generate revenue and Kirkpatrick has opted to focus on a few key niche editorial areas to attract readers and advertisers.

Kirkpatrick said: “It [the print edition] will be a combination of the best of what’s been on the website and the reader discussions around that and also some bespoke in-depth reporting because print is a great medium for conveying complex facts.

“We will experiment with bypassing the complexities of distribution by selling it through Amazon and through our website…

“We’re not doing it because we want people to say nice things about it. We’re doing it to make money. It’s a commercial venture. We’re in this to make a buck; we’re not in this to go bust.”

The Mercury intends to cover politics, foreign affairs, health, sport, outdoors and heritage as well as “strangelets”, a section covering off-beat stories from around the world.

“Our aims are to fill a gap in the Scottish online newspaper market,” said Kirkpatrick. “The Scottish newspaper market is famously the most crowded in the world but we see a real opportunity for in-depth reporting and intelligent analysis around some key areas of Scottish life.

“We’re going for a target of 20-30,000 unique users a day by the end of the year. We are quite ambitious.”

Kirkpatrick said he believed the introduction of a heritage section – focusing on Scottish history and nostalgia – would fill a gap in the market.

He said: “If you want in depth coverage of Scottish life and heritage there aren’t that many resources. We have identified gaps in the market.

“Our approach will be to, wherever possible, be as different from traditional newspapers as possible.”

The website’s title is a resurrection of one of Scotland’s first news journals. The original Caledonian Mercury began publication in 1720 and lasted until 1860.

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