Newspapers are in danger of forgetting who their friends are

There are times I fear that we in the newspaper business have forgotten who are friends are.

In our rush to embrace digital and cut costs we have loosened our ties with the people who have been with us for the long haul.

The ones who rise before dawn to take delivery our papers, who marshal an army of youngsters to despatch them in all weathers, who spread the word for us when we have a good story and who suffer the ire of our readers when we raise our cover price.

I am talking, of course, about newsagents.

Like us, they have had a hard time lately. The economic downturn, changing lifestyles and competition from supermarket chains have hit them hard.

Our own plight has not helped either. A significant part of their trade comes from newspaper sales (which are declining), and the footfall that newspapers generate.

Some publishers have trimmed newsagents’ margins on sales, and a consequence of our cutting a swathe through our circulation departments is that working relationships with our oldest friends have suffered.

It is all so sad, because a newsagent on our side is a powerful marketing communications resource.  To put it plainly, they can tell readers how wonderful we are, and then let us know if readers agree.

I spent some time visiting newsagents to gauge reaction to a recent cover price increase of one of our newspapers.

It was a rewarding and enlightening experience. The newsagents I met appeared to be much more in touch with their customers than many of us desk-bound journalists in our increasingly distant offices.

They spoke with passion about the importance of local papers, what their customers really want to read about, and why some readers find price rises so hard to stomach.

Newspapers need friends like never before. Let’s be sure we remember who they really are.


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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