Four more Newsquest-owned regional dailies are to offer increased pagination in return for a sharp increase in cover price from today.
They are the latest in a series of Newsquest titles to take the step in the past year year, including The Argus, Brighton, the Bournemouth Echo, the Northern Echo and the Lancashire Telegraph, along with several weeklies.
One of the four, the Worcester News, says it has taken on two extra reporters and a sub-editor to handle up to 52 additional pages each week.
Editor Peter John said: “At a time when local newspapers are under intense pressure, I’m delighted that we are investing in the staff and the paper to provide a better service to readers.”
He added: “Over the last few years advertising revenues have fallen and, as a business, we must face the reality that to be able to sustain the quality local newspaper we know our readers want we have to charge a fair price.
“We do think the new price is fair, because we believe our new-look paper delivers much greater value for money.”
At the Argus, the paper’s existing fortnightly business supplement will go weekly on Tuesdays while a new magazine-style pullout called It’s The Weekend will be published on Saturdays.
And from September Wednesdays will see the launch of another new supplement, dedicated to grassroots sport.
Editor Kevin Ward admitted the price rise was “substantial” but promised readers they would be getting “more for their money.”
In a blog post, Kevin said the extra £1.20 a week would be “a price worth paying” for a “bigger and better” paper.
Wrote Kevin: “There is no hiding the fact that this is a substantial rise and that is why I am telling you about it personally today, and explaining why it is necessary.
“We’re making your Argus bigger and better because we want to retain your loyalty – and because we need to meet the challenges of an ever-tougher market for regional newspapers.
“Traditional advertising platforms, which allowed us to bring you an unrivalled local news service, have suffered greatly during the economic downturn.
“This, combined with the digital information revolution, which has meant that anyone, anywhere can access news in many different formats, has provided a significant challenge for your Argus.
“We are making a significant investment to ensure you get a bigger and better Argus every day. However, this investment in additional content, staff and pages has to be funded.
“Increasing our cover price to 65p amounts to a weekly increase of £1.20 and it is important to keep that in perspective.
“It comes down to what value you place on a local newspaper which employs journalists to cover local news, which understands what’s important to local communities, and which fights local campaigns.
“I hope you’ll agree with me that 65p a day is a price worth paying for this.”
Announcing his own title’s price increase, Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill wrote: “I know this will not go down well with many readers, given that we are living in straitened times, with the economy stagnant. However, it is precisely because of the economic outlook – and fundamental changes to the structure of the local newspaper industry – that we have taken this step.
“Even at 65p, your Oxford Mail remains excellent value, given the changes outlined on this page and our on-going commitment to stand up for the people of Oxfordshire, report the highs and lows of county life and get things done on your behalf.”
Advertiser editor Gary Lawrence wrote about the change in a full-page article in Wednesday’s paper which has not been published online.
He said the paper would be getting three new supplements – The Result on Monday covering weekend sport, Family on Wednesday, and Menu on Fridays, with other existing supplements expanded.