Happy 3rd Birthday to The National

It’s the third birthday of Scotland’s only pro-independence national daily newspaper.  The National is three today, despite the doomsayers who said when it was launched back at the end of November in 2014 that it would close down by that Christmas.  The paper gives a platform for a range of pro-independence voices, some you may agree with (me, naturally), and some you may not – but the existence of the paper gives the independence movement a platform in the traditional media that would otherwise be denied to us.  That helps us reach an audience we might not otherwise reach.

The National helps the movement in other ways too.  By providing a regular income to pro-independence writers and bloggers it helps us to do other work to assist the movement.  So give The National a birthday present.  Give it your subscription and give it your support.  To celebrate the paper’s third birthday, I’m pleased to publish this guest piece from Callum Baird, the editor of the newspaper.

The National – Frequently Asked Questions

a guest post by Callum Baird, editor of The National

THE National is three years old today. Most of the pundits in Scotland’s Unionist media said we wouldn’t last till Christmas. We’ve proven them wrong – so far. But how long that lasts is now up to you.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve been doing our National Roadshow, bringing the newspaper and our team to towns and villages across Scotland, hosting events and meeting Yes groups. We’ve spoken to thousands of our readers. And we’ve realised that many people in the independence movement share the same concerns about The National and how it’s run. So we thought we would try to address the most common questions here.

You are published by Newsquest … why should we give them our money?

The truth is that it would be incredibly difficult to launch a successful daily independent newspaper today without the backing of a large publisher.
The fact that we are part of a big media company allows us to benefit from shared resources, like a printing plant, photographers, a circulation department, an advertising sales team – all of which an independent newspaper would have to pay a premium to use.

The truth is that Newsquest doesn’t have a political view. It doesn’t back independence, or the Union. Otherwise, they would never have allowed the Sunday Herald to come out for Yes, or decided to launch The National. Not once, in three years of the paper, has anybody ever told us what we can and cannot publish in The National. The owners of certain other newspaper companies in the UK are not quite so hands off.

But they could pull the plug at any minute?

Well, yes. But they won’t, as long as it’s financially viable. The only time Newsquest will ever get involved in The National is if enough people aren’t supporting the paper. So long as our readers keep buying us every morning, we’ll be there. More on that later.

Aren’t you part of the same company as The Herald?

Yes, we are – along with 20-odd local newspapers and several magazines like the Scottish Farmer. In reality, we run a completely separate operation. We have access to the same photographers, and we use the same sports writers. The other papers have no influence over us, and we’ve got no influence over them.

But is our money going towards The Herald?

No, we’re in a completely separate financial line. Decisions are made for each title based on the performance of each newspaper, and The Herald will sink or swim based on its own performance. As will the Greenock Telegraph, the Evening Times, the East Lothian Courier, or any of the other Scottish newspapers in our company.

I can’t get hold of a copy. What’s wrong with your distribution?

We know we have a major problem here, and there are several factors which contribute to it.

First, The National – unlike most other papers – is a pan-Scottish title that doesn’t have a natural geographic base (for example, like The Herald has in Glasgow or the Scotsman in Edinburgh). We’ve got to be in all 4500-odd shops, which means we need to spread ourselves thin to make sure there are enough copies in every outlet.

Second, the newspaper is often either hidden or tucked away. That’s partly because we’re the new kid on the block and therefore we get shunted behind or on the bottom shelf away from the more established papers.

Third, there is no doubt – this is the single biggest complaint we hear – that we are also being deliberately hidden behind the Unionist papers. It might be members of the public who come in and stick them under the Daily Mails or the Express. Unfortunately, without us checking every shop every day, there’s not a lot we can do about it. (And thanks to all of you out there who I know fight back to make sure we get a decent selling spot). Quite why Unionists are threatened by ONE daily newspaper when they’ve got all the rest of them, we don’t know.

How does the distribution system work?

If a shop sells out one day, it is then allocated extra copies on that day the following week. If there are a large number of copies left unsold, the shop’s allocation is cut. It is an automated system (it would be impossible to manually control the number of copies going into to 4500 shops on a daily basis).

One major problem is that the number of copies we sell is very volatile. For example, in one shop on any given week we might sell:
Monday 6 copies
Tuesday 3 copies
Wednesday 13 copies
Thursday 1 copy
Friday 8 copies

In order to make sure we definitely have enough copies available, we’d need to have at least 14 (the maximum we’re likely to sell plus one) in there each day. Over the course of those five days, we’ll have given the shop 70 copies, sold 34 and wasted 39. That doesn’t make economic sense, so we need to make tough decisions based on average sales, rather than the absolute maximum. This can lead to the newspaper occasionally being unavailable.

How are sales anyway?

We had a brilliant first six months to the year – our circulation was up on the previous 12 months, which is pretty much unheard of in newspapers. But since the General Election result – and the perception, at least, of it being a setback for independence – our sales have taken a huge hit.

The brutal truth is that we have lost close to a fifth of our print readers since a high point in June. We have a good solid number of digital subscriptions which is increasing (nearly 5000), but our readers need to be clear that the printed newspaper will ONLY exist as long as people keep buying us, and buying us regularly. There have been occasions this summer when we’ve lost an average of 300 readers from one week to the next.

So what can we do about it?

The best thing you can do is put in an order with your newsagents and make sure you get a copy of the paper EVERY day. We’re hoping to introduce a subscription soon for the printed edition, but until then we need our readership to make sure they pick up a National as a matter of routine. And make sure that other people in their local Yes groups and party branches, who might not be regular readers, know how important it is to keep The National going.

But isn’t The National just preaching to the converted?

It’s true that our readership is probably mostly made up of Yes voters. But a newspaper can reach people in other ways – for example, when our stories are followed up by other news outlets. Half a million people visit our website every month. Our front pages are seen by hundreds of thousands of people online and in shops, and articles from The National appear in the timelines of around a million people on Facebook every week.
We also support a community of pro-independence writers and columnists by paying them to contribute for us. Paul Kavanagh (aka Wee Ginger Dug) says that it’s his income from writing his columns in The National that allows him to be able to blog full-time and tour Scotland visiting Yes groups.

Why isn’t there more advertising?

This is another major problem for us. Businesses say they are spooked by the independence thing, because they think The National is too political to be associated with. It’s fine, of course, to advertise in the Unionist newspapers. Funny that. Yet we have a readership that you can’t reach in any other newspaper. We need pro-independence businesses to help us buck the trend. Get in touch!

You don’t call out the media/BBC enough!

Of course, we will hold them to account when we need to. And there are plenty people in the independence movement doing that already – The National is an alternative to the Unionist media, not a watchdog.

I really don’t like those front pages you do.

The front page gets us noticed and gets people talking about us. Those that are a bit more ‘out there’ and are more strident are inevitably shared more online and then sell more copies. Of course, we’ve made a few mistakes over the past 900-ish editions – you can’t get it right all of the time. But we’re learning.

I bought The National when it started but stopped.

Try it again. We’ve changed a lot since the launch. Don’t forget that there were only four weeks between the idea first being pitched and the newspaper arriving in shops!

I don’t like that Cat Boyd/Michael Fry/whoever writes for you.

We’ve got around 22 regular columnists and two cartoonists. You’re not going to like all of them. In fact, if you did like all of them, we wouldn’t be doing our job properly. And besides, it’s healthy to disagree with writers. Some of the newspaper columns I enjoy reading the most are the ones which make me really angry at whatever they’re saying.

I still don’t like you …

Then we’re probably never going to win you over. But wouldn’t you agree that it’s better to have at least one pro-independence newspaper than none at all? If the Yes movement doesn’t get behind us, then we’re right back where we started – with ALL of Scotland’s mainstream media against us.

The National is put together by a small team of around 10 to 12 people every day. We all believe passionately in independence for Scotland, and although another referendum isn’t going to happen in the next few month, it is coming soon. We need you to make sure we’re around to report on the campaign. And to be in the newsstands on the day Scotland votes for independence.

Callum Baird, editor of The National

0 thoughts on “Happy 3rd Birthday to The National

  1. I live in a village which is pretty unionist. We have the distinction of housing probably THE most prolific unionist writer to the papers that there is. He even gets his letters published in The National which is pretty annoying actually. But.

    There are two newspaper outlets in the village, and one more in a much smaller village some miles away. In the main village we have a newsagent’s shop and a Co-op. No problems with either of them.

    On the Friday before the paper launched I called in to the newsagent’s just before it closed and asked if he knew anything about these rumours of a new paper starting on Monday. He didn’t have a clue about it and I said, well if you can get it, I want it. Over the weekend I went down with a chest infection and by the Monday I was off work in bed sick. When I finally crawled downstairs mid-morning the first edition of The National was sticking through my letterbox.

    Since then The National has been displayed in the shop every day, not at the back with most of the papers where it could indeed be covered up by malicious unionists, but on the counter itself beside the local papers. You pretty much have to cross its palm with silver when you’re paying for anything, and nobody can cover it up. Some little time later it was joined by iScot, and the newsagent actually pitched it to me before I could get round to asking for it. You can’t really get more supportive than that.

    The Co-op displays the paper with the other newspapers and I’ve sometimes seen it covered up but generally late in the day when the shelf is a muddled mess anyway. It’s usually visible.

    The smaller village is yoon central, it really is, Very few SNP members and crawling with Lords Lieutenant and people like that. But one of the SNP members runs the general store. She always has a couple of copies of The National even if they don’t sell, and again displays them prominently on the counter under her watchful eye.

    So really, distribution is well served round here despite us being up to our necks in Tories.

    • I forgot one other thing. One of The National’s journalists lives here. I don’t think he was the reason for the newsagent being so supportive but it won’t have hurt.

      And we have a newly-formed and very active Yes group. Our first meeting was “An evening with the Wee Ginger Dug”, just yesterday. Well attended and everyone very positive. We’ll show these Tories and Mr. K.H.

    • And another thing. On Saturday I was up in Kincardine for the weekend on a music workshop course. At lunch I was reading The National and one of the other participants asked me what paper I was reading. I turned it over to show the cover and she said “The National! Oh good, I think it’s excellent!” and we had a natter about what quality cultural articles it has and so on.

      Guys, you have a fan base.

      • All very heartening, thanks – it’s a sair fecht here in the Borders (Peeblesshire especially).
        We were at Alex Unleashed in Gala last night. It was packed, and there were copies of the National placed on every seat (we’d bought our regular copy in Hawick earlier), Richard Walker was interviewed by AS and Callum Baird was in attendance.

  2. 110% agree with his comments. I have had a copy from my little shop since just after it began and when I collect my copy I always make sure I make loudish comment about an article or the front cover…when others are waiting of course, I don’t talk to myself!!!

    Unfortunately there used to be at least 3 others who took the National, but 2 of them left for uni. I try to leave one at the drs, but I’m not there too often and not sure how else to get the message out, but will push it more on faceache.

      • Sam, not to outbid you but…I have the first five copies, in mint condition, to pass down the generations.

        Its historic launch will surely feature in future accounts of the Struggle for Independence.
        Headlines Week One.

        Monday November 24th 2014
        ” GIVE SCOTLAND THE POWERS TO CUT CHILD POVERTY.”

        Tuesday November 25th 2014
        “WHAT WE NEED TO TACKLE INEQUALITY.”

        Wednesday November 26th 2014
        “MURPHY SAYS YES …but only to income tax devolution.”

        Thursday November 27th 2014
        “TAKING BACK THE PEOPLE’S LAND.”

        Friday 28th November 2014
        “IT’S NOT ENOUGH.” (The Smith Commission.)

        Many of us recall the May 7th 2015
        General Election Special headline:-

        “TODAY…LET’S COLOUR SCOTLAND YELLOW.”

        And we did.
        56 out pf 59. It is impossible to describe my feeling of elation on that May Day following the bitter disappointment of September 18th 2014.

        I have a copy of Saturday May 9th 2015 Special Edition:-
        “LOOK OUT LONDON.”
        ‘Sturgeon heads south after historic landslide.’

        Regarding controversial Front Covers, I have held on to Peter Howson’s incredible ‘Sick Society’ Austerity in the UK cover from Thursday July 9th 2015.
        A true work of genius, wrapped in a true work of genius.

        I also held on to the Sunday Herald’s Pullout May 2015 Election Special picturing the SNP 56 with the Forth Rail Bridge as a back drop, and a ‘centre fold’ of ‘The Results’ map of Dear Old Scotland covered in Yellow.

        We must keep The National going and indeed expanding.

        Thank you, Callum Baird and The Saltire Dozen who produce this essential publication.
        Thank you, Paul for your incredible work too.

        We shall prevail.

  3. Observation: McDonald’s seem to stock The Daily Heil. I emailed their HQ and was told that each branch buys in their own paper. Not entirely sure that’s true, because if so why do they seem to have the same paper, but if people were to write to the manager of their local branch they could maybe get them to get in The National, instead (or at least alongside) of the Scotland-hating rag poisoning the atmosphere of the place even more than it already is.

    Just a thought.

  4. i subscribe, its not a lot of money for the opportunity for me to cut and paste (hope thats allowed) for my friends on the on the other side of “the wall” to get a wee flavor of whats going on. i also leave a copy with rather nice pic of the salmond on my desk for customers to spot, its possibly cost me customers, but going by the increasing amount of stickers i am seeing on vehicles entering my place i think i have scored more than i have lost.;)

  5. Macart, I’ve still got the first copy, too. When I go into newsagents, supermarkets etc I always seem to pick up a couple of copies by mistake and have to put one back. I’m pretty lazy, so it always seems to end up in the most prominent position. I leave them on buses & trains. When the Sunday Herald started, I used to get several copies and put a copy through the letterbox of older people in our village that I thought might not have access to the internet. I love iScot magazine, too and have every copy. I also give subscriptions for Christmas gifts.

  6. Not living in Scotland, I can’t buy a paper copy of The National so I subscribe online. I’ve never been a great newspaper reader, but do enjoy many of the articles. Keep up the good work, and those of you who can, keep buying.

  7. Hi Paul

    Thought I would try again to contact. I have a cheque for you from Billy Maxwell.

    Love and Light x

    ________________________________

  8. Would it be economically viable to allocate a number of copies of,say, the Saturday edition for free distribution by volunterrs? If I had 20 copies every Saturday I’d happily post them through 20 different letter boxes nearby, each week. If 1 in 10 recipients were ‘converted’ by this to buy their own it might to increase paid purchases. Anybody ready to sponsor this?

  9. yes happy happy to the national – one thing ,their letters page in the online edition really needs some moderation the same unionist nutters day after day pitch their tents and then let rip, it sometimes makes the scotsman seem quite welcoming , just a thought because they have at their disposal 99.99% of the media , do they really want 100% and with our assistance .

    • Agreed Robert but, we are not doing ourselves any favours in being drawn into their spurious comments. Let them witter away and address proper contributions and the article in question

  10. A very good paper. I went digital from day one as I live on a farm a wee bit from a newsagent.

    I do put the National in a prominent position in the supermarket and any other place that sells papers.

    A bit worried paper sales have dropped.

  11. Living on an island, when in Dundee recently for a week (as my daughter rushed into Ninewells with suspected appendicitis) I could not read my online National, so I tried to buy it early each morning, in Dundee, but faced great difficulty. I learned that Marks & Spensers choose not to stock it at all and in Tescos it was always hidden under the Racing News or Morning Star! I always took it out! A family member also works for Calmac and part of her duties means ordering the papers, the weeks she’s on. When calling in her paper orderto Menzies newsagents, the conversation went something like this:

    Calmac: So 20 Heralds.
    Menzies: OK
    Calmac: 20 Scotsmans
    Menzies: OK
    Calmac : 30 Mails
    Menzies: OK
    Calmac: 20 Express
    Menzies: OK
    calmac: 7 Nationals
    Menzies: What do you want to order that rubbish for?

    As you say. What on earth are they so worried about? I will keep buying it.

    Could the National’s border on the first page not have a neon edge so that it is easily spotted under all the newspapers. By the way when I found out M & S have a policy of not odering The National I have stopped shopping there altogether. Vote with your wallets.

    • Bibbit, we stopped shopping at M&S ,and Tesco’s Asda, Barrhead Travel, and the rest of the Yoon carpetbaggers during the 2014 Indy Campaign.
      Likewise the Yoon Banks and Insurance houses.
      Anything using a Union Flag as a selling point, stays on the shelf.

      • I try to follow your good example Jack but fail miserably by comparison and, despite my better half being firmly in our camp, we would appreciate, in due course, your guidance to alternatives to the Yoons you mention.

        Regards,

        Ian

        • Grumpy, you can’t beat your local butcher. We know exactly where our meat and poultry come from, all sourced locally.
          Just about to order the Christmas Turkey, bacon, square slice for the visitors, a wee steak pie for the 27th, a clooty dumpling…mmmm.
          The German owned supermarkets work for me..lidl, Aldi, and the farmer markets.
          The saltire is prominent throughout their stores.
          Why am I so hungry?

      • Same here, Jack.

        The National is my first and only daily newspaper……..thanks to a neighbour who very kindly collects (from local store 3 miles away) and delivers each day without fail. Great read….great neighbour!

  12. On the back of this I think i’ll sign up for the online subscription. I’m in London so getting a physical copy every day isn’t likely. But hopefully the subscription money will help a bit.

    I get the iScot magazine delivered each month and it is fantastic.

    More power to all your elbows.

    Steve

  13. I have been buying The National every day since it started and whilst I don’t always agree with all it’s columnists,( though I naturally always agree with Paul) I love the Scottish perspective it brings to world affairs. I was dismayed when my local newsagent told me that I am one of only two regular readers and I live in Glasgow’s east end. A lot of work still needs to be done to defeat the main stream red tops and BBC.

  14. I have a confession. Maybe no-one else has my problem. The National is so full of worthwhile articles and lack of celebrity twaddle and adverts I seldom manage to finish reading a copy in a day ( and get the rest of my life done too ) This is why I don’t buy a copy every day. In fact about two per week tops is all I can manage before I have a growing pile in my living room reproaching me for not attending to them. Am an avid reader and well-educated so it isn’t slowness. I suppose I just don’t want to miss something by simply ‘skimming’ through. I still have the biogs of all ( well most – did some get missed?) of our 56 MPs in my cupboard. My reluctance to buy an e-subscription is not being able to do the crossword, plus having access to every issue doesn’t actually mean I will read them. Thanks for all the educating you have done in these three years. May you long continue.

    • I get the digital version and do the crossword and number square nearly every day.
      If you use Windows then there is a free program called Snip, you may find it is already in your accessories folder. Use that to capture the crossword then you can use the pencil tool to write on it. Copy it to your task bar for convenience.

      Procedure. Turn to the crossword page. Use the zoom tool at the top of the page to zoom the crossword to the size you want. Use snip to capture it.

      You will probably find you will want to slow your mouse response down in control panel, as that makes it easier to write. Will still take a wee bit of practice though.

      An alternative approach might be to use ctrl + print screen to capture the zoomed image then ctrl V to paste it into an art program of your choice.

  15. I’ve bought the National from day1, chuffed again to have a newspaper to read. I gave up on the Herald many years ago – constant Mags Curran and Jim Murphy photos and articles did it for me.

    What hasn’t been mentioned here is the Alex Salmond RT show. Another source of Indy views.The Jacky Stewart interview brought on a “head cold,’ with runny eyes. Could be re-titiled “The News Where You Are That The BBC Will Not Air”.

    @ Dr Kerr, mastered Flow’rs O’ the Forest on the flute? Music, keeps the electrons whizzing round the brain’s wiring.

  16. You can get the National south of the border here in Carlisle and even at the Coop in Silloth!
    Also available at the papershop in Berwick Station!
    I’d given up on newspapers before it came out but whilst I don’t get it every day, it’s generally a good read and I do like to get stuck in to the paper with a generous mug of tea to hand! I’ve always enjoyed the covers. One of the coolest was ‘Get Corbyn’ back in July 2015.

  17. Have bought the National from day one… I get mine ordered at my local garage buying 2 each day one to give away… Love the articles and enjoy the letters pages…

    • Maybe if we all put a copy thru a different neigbbour’s letter box each day, enough would be converted to buying their own? Even if it was the one we’ve finished reading …

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