In My Opinion: Mike Wilson: Niche work if you can get it

IT’S become one of the hottest sports news stories around, the positive doping result from one of two samples given by Floyd Landis, the recent winner of the Tour de France.

But this denouement to Le Tour, which finished a week ago, was simply the latest twist in a gripping three-week drama. And this will be a view shared by hundreds if not thousands of Scots who tuned into ITV4 and elsewhere for their daily Tour fix.

If only those same Tour fans could have had a Scottish newspaper serving their needs with more than a 600-word or so update?

Last week, on the same day the Tour was finishing in Paris, the Open golf championship was concluding at Royal Hoylake. The Open gets big coverage in the Scottish press, and rightly so.

But the comprehensive coverage found in one newspaper was, at least in terms of quantity, little different to that found in every other newspaper. In other words, all the newspapers were doing was keeping up with the pace.

With an event such as the Tour de France, there was an opportunity to break free of the pack. Here was a chance to become the must-buy newspaper, albeit for a relatively small bunch of fans and maybe only for three weeks.

But some might have stayed, who otherwise had not been buyers. And in the unlikely event of there being no post-Tour sales hike whatsoever, at least the three-week coverage itself would have generated a few more sales. Maybe even a few thousand more.

Where recently a Scottish newspaper truly ‘went to town’ on an event was when The Herald’s Saturday magazine devoted almost its entire issue to the imminent re-opening of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It allowed for the story to be approached via a wonderfully diverse bunch of angles, including from those behind the scenes. It was truly enriching.

And here’s the dilemma for editors. Any collection of stories they choose to publish is bound to be a fraction of those that could be. So, it’s a question of how wide the selected few.

The wider the selection, the more chance each and every reader will be touched by at least one story. Maybe only just touched, but perhaps by enough to keep them loyal.

Then again, the narrower the selection but the genuinely deep the coverage of some of the stories that survive, perhaps there’s another message going out to the reader.
Instead of: ‘Here is a bunch of tales we believe you’ll like’, the message could instead be: ‘Stay with us because the story you’ll love will be along soon or later and, let us promise you, when it does, it’ll be done really well. And in the meantime, you might be inspired by this.’

Badminton fans, watch out. You’re time may yet come.

Mike Wilson is a director of allmediascotland.com.