Page hits on the Sunday Herald’s website reached record levels after it became the first mainstream media organisation to reveal that Ryan Giggs was the Premiership footballer at the centre of a privacy row.
This was despite the fact that the story only appeared in print.
On the day the story first appeared the number of visitors to heraldscotland.com – which also includes content from sister-title The Herald – reached 358,000 and there were 1,071,756 page views.
On Monday the number of visitors rose to 547,000 and the number of page views reached 1,939,147 after the story was followed-up with by The Herald, according figures from iomart Hosting, the company that hosts heraldscotland.com,
Mark Smith, group digital director for Newsquest, the company that owns The Herald and Times Group, said that when the BBC started running the story as its lead news item on Sunday ‘traffic levels rocketed to literally ten times what we would expect normally”.
Sunday Herald editor Richard Walker said the company does not yet have print circulation figures, but told Press Gazette ‘I know we were up, but it wasn’t through the roof. ‘A lot of shops were sold out because we took the decision [to use Giggs’ photo] relatively late in the day, so there wasn’t time for an extra print run.”
The team first considered the controversial move at around 6pm on Saturday and it wasn’t until 8pm that the decision was finalised.
In between Walker ‘contacted as many lawyers as I could muster’and admitted that it ‘took a while to have that comfort that it [the injunction] didn’t apply in Scotland”.
In January the newspaper made another controversial decision – relaunching as a single section magazine.
While Walker insisted the quality of journalism had not been affected by the switch, the paper has taken a big hit in circulation – its latest ABC figures for April revealed a 30.2 per cent year-on- year drop to 29,578.
Walker, however, denied that Sunday’s splash was simply an attempt to arrest falling circulation.
‘Some people have said we did it because we didn’t have another splash, but that isn’t true,’he said.
‘We had other options, but we already had a good package on injunctions. I looked at that and thought, ‘that’s definitely what I want to put on the front page’.”
He added: ‘You can boost circulation in ways that have far less risks attached – you can give away a film or a poster. It would have been a very cynical attempt to boost circulation, and there are certainly more relaxing ways of doing it.”
On Monday, rival Scottish newspaper The Scotsman ran a piece claiming that, despite England and Scotland having separate legal systems, ‘the paper’s editor, journalists and directors could face prosecution for contempt of court and possibly go to prison”.
Asked if the newspaper was involved in any legal action, Walker said: ‘We have heard of no impending legal action or of a complaint being submitted to the Attorney General.
‘As far as I’m aware there’s nothing happening other than what’s in the public domain.”
He added: ‘We have to risk these things sometimes. I knew there was a risk but I didn’t think there was a significant risk of jail.”