An editor has defended a decision to raise the cover price of a weekly newspaper by 67pc as it introduces a redesign with more pages.
The Bury Times will increase its price from 60p to £1 this week as it brings in a bigger paper with more pages for news, letters, features, comment and sport.
The redesigned edition will include a new leisure pull-out and the title has also recruited two new reporters for its editorial team, Tui Benjamin and Andrew Bardsley.
The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has also hit out at price increase at the two titles and other Newsquest papers, including the Western Telegraph, the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and the Warrington Guardian, because the full increase is not being passed on to retailers.
Bury Times editor-in-chief Ian Savage has explained the price rise in an article about the changes, saying there was “significant investment” being made to improve the newspaper.
In the piece, he highlighted the difficulties faced by regional newspapers in the last few years, with advertising revenues down and the challenges posed by the “digital information revolution”.
Ian said: “We have decided to face up to that harsh reality and from next week you will see significant investment in the newspaper. However, this comes at an extra cost.
“As a result the Bury Times will be increasing its cover price to £1 from next week, using much of the price rise to fund this major investment.
“We want to continue to produce a high quality and comprehensive news service for the Bury community and I believe that the extra pages, more comprehensive news and features in the new-look Bury Times represents excellent value for money.”
Changes at the title have been brought in following reader focus groups about what they wanted to see in the Times.
Ian told HTFP that the investment in the paper was to ensure it remained a “good quality local newspaper”.
He said: “As I have explained in my piece in this week’s Bury Times, this is not simply just a cover a price increase – this is an investment in the newspapers.
“We have increased pagination significantly and taken on two new reporters. As a result there will be much more local news in the Bury Times than there has been. The newspaper has been redesigned and restructured, following a series of reader focus groups from Bury people.
“We listened to readers and responded to their views, but extra resources, pages and marketing has to come at a price.
“We understand that a cover price rise is controversial, but I firmly believe that for just £1 a week the new Bury Times represents excellent value for money.”
The paper’s new 20-page Weekend supplement will include interviews with local celebrities and residents, a bygones section, cinema reviews, cookery, walks, a page of puzzles and a comprehensive listings section.
The latest ABC figures for the second half of 2012 showed the paper’s average circulation was 15,465, down 7.2pc year-on-year.
A statement from the NFRN has criticised the price increases at the titles, saying the newsagents will only get a small percentage of the rises, so they are receiving a smaller cut for each copy sold.
NFRN national president Alan Smith said: “As I visit each of the federation districts during my presidential year, I am finding an increasing groundswell amongst members who are rapidly losing patience with the constant abuse they are receiving from news industry suppliers.
“If it isn’t wholesalers robbing them blind through unjustified carriage charge increases, it is publishers lining their pockets at the retailers’ expense through their failure to maintain pro rata terms.”
The cover prices at the Warrington Guardian, Wiltshire Gazette & Herald and Western Telegraph have all increased to £1, from 65p, 70p and 75p respectively.
Newsquest has not responded to requests for a comment about the concerns of the NFRN.