Glasgow-based Herald group reports sales boost in print and online after launch of The National

The Glasgow-based Herald group has reported circulations in print and online up 20 per cent year on year.

The growth is due to the success of the Sunday Herald's stance on being pro-Scottish independence, the launch of nationalist daily newspaper The National and a metered paywall online model which appears to be working.

The group, owned by Newsquest, also publishes the Evening Times newspapers and three websites: heraldscotland.com, eveningtimes.co.uk and thenational.scot.

It claims that print sales and online subscriptions rose to more than 91,000 in the first half of 2015, up from 76,000 on the same period in 2014. This figure combines the average circulation of The Herald and the Sunday herald across seven days with the Evening Times, The National and adds in the number of web subscribers.

The Sunday Herald – the only newspaper in Scotland to back the Yes vote in the nation's independence referendum last September – recorded a 34.7 per cent year-on-year circulation increase 32,204 in the second half of 2014, according to ABC figures. The Herald saw its average circulation fall 4.9 per cent year on to 37,044 in the same period.

According to internal figures, Heraldscotland.com now has more than 14,000 subscribers, an increase of 3,190 on last year.

The group said that The National, launched in November after the sales success of the Sunday Herald, has a combined print and digital subscription number of 16,922.

Heraldscotland.com has a metered paywall, which allows readers to access three full articles every four weeks before being prompted to register. Once registered, they can read three more free articles. It costs £1 for full access to the website for the first month and then £2.99 after that. A web, mobile and tablet use subscription costs £5.99 a month. Print subscribers to The Herald are given free access to the website.

In a press release announcing the figures, the Herald and Times Group also said that Gordon Stevenson, formerly of Media Scotland, has been appointed head of digital.

Managing director Tim Blott said: “We are pleased to note that, despite general industry trends, our paying readership is growing at a substantial pace. This reflects the quality and scope of our journalism, as well as the uniqueness and integrity of our content.

“We are also glad to welcome Gordon on board as we invest in new expertise to help sustain and adapt the business to changes in the industry.”

Tom Thomson, managing editor, said: “It is gratifying to see a rise in our paying readership and the vote of confidence from our readers which this indicates. We are pleased at Gordon’s choice to join us as we inject new expertise and ambition into our digital content creation and advertising offerings with the first of two new key appointments.”

In September last year, the Herald and Times Group reported pre-tax profits of £9.2m, down from £12m the year before. Over the period, turnover dipped by 5.7 per cent to £53.8m.

Managing director Blott said at the time: "Our internet operations are rapidly gaining audience and paid-for subscribers, but not enough in 2013 to mitigate the print revenue decline."

In March this year, the group announced that it was seeking to make ten redundancies.

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