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Editor blames ‘harsh realities’ as newspaper raises cover price again

A regional daily editor has blamed “harsh financial realities” after his newspaper raised its cover price for the fourth time in less than three years.

The News, Portsmouth has increased its price yesterday by five pence to 75p – 11 months since its last rise, from 65p to 70p.

The Johnston Press-owned title has previously increased its cover price from 55p to 60p in April 2013, and to 65p in March 2014 – representing a rise of just over a third in two years and 10 months.

Its latest price rise comes the week after the paper launched a new, responsive website – following the lead of fellow JP dailies The Star, Sheffield, and the Scotsman.

Monday's edition of The News - the first to be priced at 75p

Monday’s edition of The News – the first to be priced at 75p

The new pricing was announced in Saturday’s edition of The News by editor Mark Waldron.

He wrote: “It’s never easy for me to ask all our loyal readers to pay more and each year, as we review our budgets for the coming year, I doggedly try to keep our cover price as low as possible.

“But the harsh financial realities of running an award-winning multi-media news service in 2016 means that again I am asking you to spend a little extra.

“I still believe we offer a great value-for-money service in delivering the news, sport and information from where you live, while providing the most trusted link between local readers and local businesses.”

Mark is now set to embark on a tour of The News’s patch next week to get feedback on the paper’s work.

He added: “In a world where you are bombarded with information, it’s even more important than ever that The News remains a clear voice which stands up for our readers and fiercely champions our communities, alongside our family-comes-first news philosophy.

“I know The News must be a thorn in the side of wrongdoers, hold public authority to account and champion our local standard bearers. My award-winning team of journalists – some of whom have been at The News for nearly 40 years – will never flinch from these charges.

“I sincerely hope you will continue to support us. Without our readers and advertisers, The News could not be your friend at home and your ally in battle.”

37 comments

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  • January 26, 2016 at 9:27 am
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    Bombastic, Churchillian stuff from the editor but is there a defensive element to it? Surely cover price rises are not the way to make up financial shortfalls. These are bad days for us all.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 9:30 am
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    An “award-winning multi-media news service”. Jeez, I’ll pay £3 a day then, hell £5! Self praise is no praise.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 9:44 am
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    Wonder if anyone has produced a graph showing price rises up one side and circulation along the other side?

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    how ridiculous
    putting the cover price up is the loudest message you can give that times are desperate and never works ,regular readers will reconsider their habitual purchase, new readers wont be tempted and advertisers will question the effectiveness of advertising in a medium that is clearly losing readers.
    why anyone thinks this ridiculous strategy works is beyond me and after thirty years in the regional press I have never seen this improve revenues, if anything will further damage them as more people who used to pay will no longer, especially when this title has had three price hikes in such a short period of time.
    desperate times, desperate measures

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:16 am
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    What a cheap looking front page.
    I can only hope for better value inside.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:26 am
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    Quality down, prices up … hardly sounds like a plan, does it?

    However it does underline the serious plight of the regional press in 2016. Trapped between the rock of dwindling revenues and the hard place of an increasingly aging and (worse) apathetic readership, the room for manoeuvre is getting smaller by the day.

    How do you persuade the great British public of the merits of a product they don’t seem to want, and, increasingly, cannot afford?

    Answers on a piece of paper to The Society of Editors ASAP.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:28 am
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    What on earth has happened to The News’ design? It looks awful.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:34 am
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    Unfortunately the people running newspapers today don’t actually have a clue what they are doing. I would have as much success if I were running the Hadron Collider at Cern, Switzerland, They only see digital and the perceived money saving it COULD bring. They have let printed papers decline to a point of no return BUT their alternative, digital, simply isn’t working. People on here can say papers are a thing of the past til they are blue in the face BUT I say DIGITAL DOSEN’T WORK, it’s glaringly obvious. Why do the YES men not catch themselves on?! I’ve said it before..It wasn’t broken, why try to fix it. they’ve just ruined a perfectly good industry. Putting up cover prices whilst producing a bad product is asking for trouble. What company ever survived by lowering the quality of their product?
    Putting up prices is only rubbing salt in the wound. The readers aren’t stupid…unfortunately it’s the ‘suits’ who are the stupid ones!

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  • January 26, 2016 at 12:20 pm
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    Award winning is mentioned twice in this awful PR disaster. So be definition the reader is required to pay more but hey we’ve won awards so it must be worth it. I wonder how many of the ever diminishing audience know or indeed care about the awards that the editor is so keen to mention?

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  • January 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm
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    Here’s a thing
    I’m in a restaurant that I’ve been coming to for ages,it’s a habit as I’ve always come here,I have noticed that the quality of the ingredients has got worse, plus they’ve had three price rises already and still I come back because I always have done. Now it’s gone up a fourth time because not only is the quality poor but now because fewer people are coming in they’ve asked me to pay even more for lesser value so I don’t think I’ll come again.
    My friend has never been before but has heard the foods nowhere near as good as it was and the prices have gone up, will he be tempted?
    Ridiculous isn’t it? so why should newspaper buyers be any different ?
    jeeez,why ever do they believe this desperate policy works, it doesn’t

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  • January 26, 2016 at 12:41 pm
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    if three price rises in a year hasnt helped underpin revenue losses my advice?go free
    A free publication will likely attract more readers who in turn will enable the sales team to sell more ads which should equate to sustainable and controlable revenue increases.
    To carry on creeping up the cover price,particularly in the face of a “responsive new website”, is suicidal and never works,it simply alientates regular readers and doesnt tempt casual buyers
    yet incurs the same costs coupled with a dwindling revenue base,asaide from going free whats the alternative?

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  • January 26, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    First rule in business finance is never pass your financial losses on to the end user.
    If a price increase is necessary then it needs to be offset by higher quality and or added and additional value that the prospective purchaser will pay for, looking at the cover on this story quality is something that was abandoned a while back .

    To have increased the cover price three times in the past year and to be doing it again smacks of naivety,panic and desperation.
    They say when all else fails put your prices up, one can only assume all else has failed and putting your prices up won’t improve the situation, of anything it will make them worse.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm
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    @karld because those going online are getting it free as opposed to buying it as now and the fourth planned price rise is in response to falling cover price revenues.
    And don’t automatically assume those non buyers will go the web site instead,they’re more likely to go to an alternate news source.

    Unless your comment was tongue in cheek in which case you win

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  • January 26, 2016 at 1:46 pm
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    Analystx…. That’s the JP way. The really really don’t have the first clue. They have taken successful and proud newspapers and turned them into pure rubbish. They have single-handedly destroyed the weekly newspaper industry. Others are copying their tactics. However the fools can’t accept that digital is failing to generate meaningful revenue and they”ve nothing to fall back on. They can put as much news online as they want but if it dosen’t make any advertising money then what’s the point. The only thing that is going down faster than the circulation figures is the share price! DIGITAL ISN’T WORKING!

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  • January 26, 2016 at 1:53 pm
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    So,online news is given away….printed news costs,would giving the paper away and charging for online make a difference?

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  • January 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm
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    At least the paper printed a heads-up that the cover price was going up. Too many publications push the cost up without warning, apology or explanation, hoping that when the paper’s adjusted barcode is scanned alongside sundry other items the price increase will be hidden in the total bill. Radio Times (up 30p in one fell swoop to £2.30 a copy this month) is a serial offender in this respect.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 3:23 pm
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    And the odd thing is that announcing you are going to sack another 100 journalists on top of the 1,000 shed since 2009; declaring that more than a third of your papers and the towns they are in are economically unviable, and apologising for raising the price of your products has NOT improved JP’s share price!
    Funny that.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 3:59 pm
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    How many of the above comments are by people claiming to be journalists? Is not the need to start sentences – especially intros – not known by them? Can they not read through to correct grammatical mistakes before sending? Every day’s comments on this website reveal careless misuse of the language.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 4:35 pm
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    It is simple maths.
    If you sell 10,000 copies and raise the cover price by 5p you bring in £500 a day, £3,000 a week, equals £156,000 a year in extra revenue – without a penny’s added cost.
    Of course you might lose five per cent circulation, but you will still bring in an extra £148,000 – with a bit of cost saving thrown in too.
    Now, of course, this is not sustainable over the long term, but the long term decline of daily and evening papers (in no small part due to suicidal digital policies) means publishers are eaking out every penny they can from a declining market…. and who can blame them.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm
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    TELL US. you are being pedantic. this is just people bashing out comments quickly on a website. Take a walk and get some fresh air.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 5:20 pm
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    One JP weekly raised its price just before Christmas, burying the bad news and giving a pathetic justification into the bargain. Quality down, price up. JP logic.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 5:32 pm
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    For that extra few pence I would expect the sub of the front page featured here to have the nous to avoid repeating the word ‘after’ in the headline and the subhead.These really are basic errors. No awards from me, I am afraid.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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    @tellus
    If that’s the best contribution you can make please don’t bother as you’re adding nothing to the views or debate.
    Many people including myself use hand held devices to comment on the move, not everyone’s sat at a PC spell checking and making pedantic comments.
    Yes it would be nice if time was taken to check and double check but come on, chill out and put a view about the subject matter if you have one, not those commenting.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 5:59 pm
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    The newspaper industry’s desire to increase cover prices well above the rate of inflation resembles a pub when I go in for a pint of beer.

    “That will be £5 please”, says the barman. I pay and down my pint but don’t bother to have another one because of the price and never return to the pub.

    The pubcos and the newscos are killing their respective businesses.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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    Papers which allow their content to be shared all over social media for free, without protecting copyright, are effectively cutting their own throats!

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  • January 26, 2016 at 6:29 pm
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    I’m not sure if ‘Cynic’ is a journalist or not but, if so, stick to words not numbers.
    The maths are simple but not as you say.
    In your example, the newspaper does not get the full benefit because the wholesaler/retailer keeps around 25%…. So £156,000 becomes £117,000.
    If, as result, the paper loses 5% circulation, the calculation is 500 copies (5% of 10,000) x 75p less 25% (for the retailer/wholesaler) x 312 publishing days which is about £87,500.
    So, the overall revenue gain is only about £29,500 which seems a big price to pay for yet another downturn in sales. The road to hell.
    Or, more simply, if the cover price increase is 5p on 70p that means a yield increase of 7.1 %. But if the resultant volume loss is 5%, the revenue increase is neglible.
    Need to get out more.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 10:53 pm
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    Subsumed. Sadly this sort of thing no matters, along with proper punctuation, grammar and following house style. Staff work hard, but
    There are not enough old hands to maintain basic professional standards on local papers, especially JPs ravaged weeklies. Wish it was otherwise, truly.

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  • January 26, 2016 at 11:52 pm
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    Four cover price rises in three years? surely the last throw of the dice for this doomed title.
    If people arent buying it in sufficient numbers now they sure as anything won’t be buying it at a higher price tomorrow.
    What’s their long term plan ? to keep increasing the cover charge until it eventually goes pop?
    And Mr Waldron , my ” friend at home ” doesn’t keep asking me for money and my ” ally in battle.” doesn’t expect me to carry it and prop it up.

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  • January 27, 2016 at 12:37 am
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    Tellus: an often overlooked anagram for pompous bore.

    Please can you explain your second sentence. I think you are trying to say that people making comments should start their sentences better, but once I have decoded your double negatives, all I am left with is a plea for writers to start their sentences. Which they appear to be doing.

    I suspect you mean will rather than can in the next line. And then after that, there’s not many who would gladly own up to your last sentence.

    Every day’s comments is clumsy. Better is The comments every day, as every day is a familiar phrase, and jarring the reader with the unusual construction every day’s creates pause and doubt.

    I also cannot see the reason for using the definite article. Whose language? Ah yes, if you remove “the” it makes better sense.

    So apart from poor style and dubious grammar, you have all the makings of an excellent writer. Do let me know when someone pays to read your stuff.

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  • January 27, 2016 at 8:03 am
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    Sadly, there is no sincerity in this piece from the Editor. The price rise is not going towards supporting value for money pagination levels, or maintaining a minimum level of journalists to produce a newspaper worthy of the term local. No, instead, readers in Portsmouth and up and down the country, are having to fund the vast amount of head office personnel at JP, whilst it’s reason for being, moves ever closer to the fait of the dinosaurs. Editor in Chief + CMO = no price rise for a couple of titles, for a couple of years, probably doing more for audiences and circulations than them being in situ!! Do the math Ashley before you have no business left.

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  • January 27, 2016 at 11:26 am
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    Spot on the archer and a superb analogy, for some reason editors or their puppet masters feel local people will buy the local paper ‘because they always have done’ it’s an arrogance beyond belief.
    In no other walk of life would a business plod along charging more for less and expecting people to keep purchasing so why do the bean counters insist on going route 1 all the time and putting the price up?
    With fewer readers to newspapers these days if anything the price to advertise should come down as I was always told that ad rate is reflective of the audience reached, clearly only when it suits the ad people to say so, if cover prices remained frozen and ad rates reflected the readership / copy sales figures maybe more people would buy and advertise in the papers which would solve the problem of falling sales in some measure.
    So many valid points in the comments here and so obvious to many buying pres by the ones making the decisions.
    A future for local newspapers? Not with decisions like this there isn’t

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  • January 27, 2016 at 11:30 am
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    * apologies to all ‘ buying pres by’ should read ‘but not by’

    Sorry @tellus I’ll sit in the corner head bowed and think on what I’ve done just for you

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  • January 27, 2016 at 1:17 pm
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    Love the Hydroponics advert on the front page. At least The News are supporting their local indoor plant growing communities. May I suggest an alternative to the summers largest sunflower competition, how about the ‘biggest crop grown in a loft’.

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  • January 27, 2016 at 1:52 pm
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    I’m not sure why no one at JP has given serious consideration to charging for some elements of online content.
    Sure, not breaking news – due to its nature (and the fact people will go elsewhere for it if they have to pay), but the features, the ents interviews, the backgrounders, nostalgia pieces, letters pages and so on – original content which can’t be found elsewhere – ought to be value-added stuff which could be charged for (a teaser then a paywall).
    Instead everything is just given away for free – and increasingly not only on JP websites, but of course also on social media (which is demanded from above). And then everyone shrugs their shoulders because they can’t figure out a way to make the online version make money.
    Making business decisions like cutting staffing to cut costs and increasing the price of the product doesn’t exactly require a degree in business studies, does it? I could make those decisions for a half million pound bonus, quite happily. Real difficult decision-making or innovative ideas appear to be sadly lacking at the top at JP.

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  • January 27, 2016 at 6:17 pm
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    You have to feel sorry for mr Waldron as he clearly doesn’t believe the guff he’s been told to trot out as to why there’s yet another price rise on a paper that’s obviously in a spiral of lost readers, lost revenue and is failing.
    If somethings not working you take action to remedy it or close it, you can’t sustain repeated losses.
    expecting folk to pay more for less on three occasions in quick succession ought to be enough to tell them it’s regretably a lost cause.

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  • January 31, 2016 at 11:33 pm
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    Rising cover prices have become the desperate norm from the bottom of the country to the top. Publishers either haven’t got a clue or, more likely, know the game’s up and want to get as much extra money out if it while they can, even if it’s just a few thousand as each rise causes circulation to fall further.
    They are hoping it will buy them a bit more time in which they can come up with a masterplan.
    But people have been trying for years. I fear there is no masterplan.
    Newspapers are obsolete because they carry a huge percentage of old news, hardly any exclusives. This isn’t helped by overnight printing, people setting up on their own as a social media news service, staff cuts etc.
    And digital won’t make them any money because nobody likes seeing ads on websites. Most of us even resort to using an ad blocker.
    It makes you wonder how quality journalism can survive, but it really needs some out of the box thinking. More sponsorship of niche titles perhaps. Whatever, media managers need to rip up everything they’ve learned so far and start thinking on a different level.
    But are newspaper people – traditionalists in the main – able to think like that? Not in great number, not in enough numbers, it seems.
    Turn the lights off on the way out…

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