It’s money, not circulation, that keeps newspaper firms strong

Media pundit Roy Greenslade has written a more thoughtful post on newspaper pricing than his earlier rant, which derided Newsquest’s efforts to adjust its business model.

This time he discusses the two divergent pricing strategies being pursued by newspaper publishers.

One is to lower the price, the other is to raise it.

Greenslade notes reports that Local World’s Derby Telegraph reduced its cover price from 43p to 20p for a single day on Friday, June 21, and saw sales increase by about 13 per cent.

He contrasts it with Newsquest’s price rises which have resulted in falls in sales, and concludes:

“Of the two strategies, I prefer the latter. It seeks to extend print audiences and therefore engage more people in the reading of journalistic content (though I accept that many more are doing so online anyway).

“Price-cutting may not turn around the overall trend but it seems altogether less suicidal than implementing price rises that will surely antagonise readers, making it unlikely that they will return even if the rises are reversed.”

Price cutting is all very well if all you are seeking to do is hang on to readers.

But Greenslade misses the point. As he accepts, newspapers do not have a problem finding readers. It is just that they are moving online, and publishers have not yet figured out how to make their digital operations pay.

Newsquest’s price rises will cost print readers, but the merit of the strategy is that it will generate revenue.

And that, rather than chasing circulation figures that do not necessarily translate into money, is what will keep newspapers in business.

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About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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