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Regional publisher increases cover price at more than 40 newspapers

A regional publisher has increased the cover prices of more than 40 of its newspapers in the North of England and Scotland.

The switch by Johnston Press affects titles in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, as well as Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Prices have risen between 10p and 20p at the 41 affected titles, which includes regional daily the Wigan Post along with 40 weeky newspapers.

Johnston Press says the changes are driven by a need for the titles to “remain viable in print,” but the National Federation of Retail Newsagents says it is “absolutely livid” at the move which it claims has reduced margins for its members.

Wigan new

JP group publishing director Richard Thomson said: “Our partners in the retail trade are very important to us, and we don’t make changes to terms lightly.

“However these are tough times for smaller local newspapers as they face competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.

“Johnston Press’s larger titles are responding dynamically to the changing market, for instance by growing their already substantial online audiences and developing fresh advertising propositions.

“But for some of our smaller titles, these changes to terms are driven by a need to ensure they stay viable in print, and by doing so, to continue driving footfall into retail stores.”

The NFRN says the changes will reduce the retail margin to as little as 10pc on some papers, with the organisation’s national president Linda Sood saying she is “absolutely livid” at the move.

She added: “I’m shell-shocked. Johnston Press has displayed complete contempt for hard pressed and hardworking independent retailers who are responsible for such a large percentage of their regional newspaper sales. This move is a travesty, made even worse by the fact that there has been no prior consultation.”

NFRN head of news Brian Murphy added: “Raising the cover prices by as much as 20p while cutting the retailers’ margin to between 10pc and 13pc is misguided, unprecedented and downright disgraceful.

“We want some urgent answers from Mr Thomson, not least as to whether independent retailers are the only ones to see such vicious cuts to their margins or whether larger news retailers are having their trading terms hacked too.

The price rises are due to take effect this week – but Mr Murphy is calling on JP to put them on hold pending further consultation.

“We have been given next to no notice of the changes. We therefore call on Johnston Press to postpone the price increases and margin cuts for a minimum of six weeks to enable retailers to decide whether they will accept these new terms or to refuse them, as is their right under their terms and conditions of supply,” he said.

Last Sunday JP also increased the price of Scotland on Sunday from £1.70 to £2.

A full list of the affected titles and the price changes is below, together with the NFRN’s estimate of the new margin for each title:

Newspaper Old price New price Margin (pc)
Fleetwood Weekly News 90p £1 10
Burnley Express £1.05 £1.20 11
Wigan Post 85p 95p 10
Brighouse Echo 95p £1.05 12
Pocklington Post £1 £1.10 11.75
Todmorden News 85p 95p 12
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser 80p 90p 11
Epworth Bells 90p £1 11
Cumbernauld News 90p £1 12
Kilysyth Chronicle 90p £1 12
Deeside Piper 95p £1.05 12.5
Berwickshire News £1.25 £1.40 12
Midlothian Advertiser 95p £1.05 12.5
Galloway Gazette £1 £1.10 12.5
Ellon Times 90p £1 12.25
Inverurie Herald 90p £1 12.25
Mearns Leaders 95p £1.05 12
Arbroath Herald 90p £1 12.5
Broughty Ferry Guide and Gazette 90p £1 12.5
Glenrothes Gazette 80p 90p 12.5
Buchan Observer 75p 85p 12.25
Fraserburgh Herald 95p £1.05 12.25
Selkirk Weekend Advertiser 65p 75p 12.5
Brechin Advertiser 95p £1.05 13
Montrose Review 95p £1.05 13
Forfar Despatch 95p £1.05 13
Kirriemuir Herald 95p £1.05 13
The Buteman 95p £1.05 12.5
Carrick Gazette 90p £1 12.5
Milngavie & Bearsden Herald 85p 95p 12
Kirkintilloch Herald 80p 90p 12
Bishopbriggs Herald 80p 90p 12
Ballymena Times £1.55 £1.75 10
Londonderry Sentinel £1.45 £1.60 10
Roe Valley Sentinel £1.45 £1.60 10
Tyrone Times £1.50 £1.65 10
Banbridge Leader £1.60 £1.75 10
Dromore Leader £1.60 £1.80 10
Ballymoney Times £1.55 £1.75 10
Coleraine Times £1.55 £1.75 10
Ulster Star £1.45 £1.60 10


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  • June 26, 2017 at 8:21 am

    No clearer indication of desperate grasping onto a rapidly dwindling market than when publishers increases the cover charge of its papers and passes its own costs overheads and losses onto the end user.
    Cover hikes never work and only force the current buyer to reconsider their purchasing habits and certainly don’t encourage non buyers to buy,
    Citing the old excuse of Facebook and google just emphasises how out of ideas and reasons JP must be to use that as an excuse.
    Good luck in expecting people to pay more for less and in regaining the trust of the newsagents after this under the radar action

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  • June 26, 2017 at 11:55 am

    “..driven by a need for the titles to “remain viable in print,”
    Isn’t the job of the advertising people to ensure there’s sufficient revenue to do just that, coupled with the content chiefs and editors to ensure the papers are worth reading?
    Easy to cite outside forces but the real reasons are usually out of control costs,often due to high salaries of those who don’t produce much if anything
    Looking to claw back more from a dwindling readership and passing on costs to the customer is ill considered and business suicide, you’ve got to be pretty sure what you’re selling is of sufficient quality and in high enough demand to do so,even then it’s risky,if anything reduce the price to encourage uptake and turn casual buyers into more regular ones

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  • June 26, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    Trying to put out a fire with petrol. Obviously want to kill off the less popular titles by driving away the few remaininh readers.

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  • June 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    That’s exactly how it comes across to me @dead digital horse
    I’ve seen this tactic of raising cover prices many times before and the end result is always the same, far fewer readers and buyers whether intentional or otherwise

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  • June 26, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    It,s quite clear what is happening here…a lot of the papers on the list are low circulation titles. Putting the price up will simply drive the remaining readers away and allow JP to close them or move them online with all the attendant redundancies that would follow. Taking the price down and investing in staff who can produce a good product would help in increasing circulation. However JP are showing their true colours by doing exactly the opposite.
    They try to say that print is dying…IT’S NOT…..IT IS BEING MURDERED! Killed off to facilliate digital which has proved a failure. I know more about brain surgery than some directors know about newspapers!

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  • June 26, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    It goes from bad to worse. Ever increasing price for ever decreasing quality. But they never listen.

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  • June 26, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Selkirk Advertiser 75p and Deeside Piper £1.05. Bloody Hell.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Reduce quality. Lose sales. Increase price. Lose sales. Genius.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Surely after 45 years of treading the path to Increased Cover Prices, you would imagine that regional publishers would realise that it is a cul-de-sac leading only to Declining Circulations with its growing graveyard of ex-regional newspaper readers..

    But no, they plough on regardless, presumably believing that when the furrow gets so deep they cannot see over the top all their problems will be over.

    They may have a point, by that time the last customer will have long since turned off the light.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 10:59 am

    This reminds me that a senior JP manager told me about six years ago that the company was prepared to lose paper sales to pave the way for digital. They even tried the line reduced sales cut printing costs. So no surprise we are where we are. In the muck stuff.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    Digital Dead Horse, good luck in the Dragon’s Den with that pitch!

    You’ve got a broken business model but you want to reduce the profit made from selling your product AND increase the cost of producing it in the hope that more people buy it in a marketplace where someone else can provide it for free? Err… I’m out!

    While digital is certainly not some sort of panacea for local publishing it is also not a failure. It doesn’t make as much money as print does, fact, and possibly never will but it is growing. It’s changing, it’s evolving and quickly too. The profits, albeit small by comparison with print, are improving.

    What you might see as ‘failures’ aren’t particularly costly in the grand scheme of things so you can test the water with new ideas and make decisions on how to improve or remove quickly.

    Print hasn’t changed or evolved and any attempts to do so are slow, cumbersome and costly. That wouldn’t be a problem once substantial profits weren’t falling like a house of cards but that’s NOTHING to do with digital in terms of what publishers are doing. It’s all to do with consumer behaviour but it sounds like you want to keep selling apples to world that wants more oranges.

    In your model, how far do you reduce the cost of papers? Twenty per cent, 50 per cent…. 100 per cent? We’ve all seen what happens to the free sheets and, hang on, where else can you get this information conveniently and for free? Hmm.. let me think.

    Traditional local advertising is on its last legs. Dwindling newspaper readers mean print adverts are less effective. Digital display advert are equally as ineffective for local business. This is partly due to the medium itself and partly due to regional business models selling national adverts across their networks solely for the purpose of brand reinforcement.

    The only successful way to advertise locally in future will be by targeting customers with relevant ads when they are actively looking to buy and others when passively searching. This can only be done by gathering data and, while possible in print, it’s much easier and immediate in digital.

    I’m with you on the directors’ issue as they answer to shareholders and investment in quality is clearly lacking. I just don’t think investment in print is the wisest move for regional and local publishing in the long-run.

    Invest in gathering consumer data and lose the unsustainable 25 to 30 per cent profit margins then some of this industry might survive while maintaining quality and relevance.

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  • June 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    We heard the same thing @paperboy
    A senior ad manger told ad staff to get on board with digital as it was the way the company was going and in a few short years the business would be completely digital as the costs to produce papers was ever increasing and unprofitable, he also said it was clear they would need less staff to produce the output
    What happened?
    Yes paper sales declined massively
    Ad sales dropped through the floor
    Digital never took off
    And that manager and the suits above him quietlyleft the building

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  • June 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Yes exactly Paperboy. I’ve been banging on about this for years. The company saw £££ signs in their eyes when digital came along. No print costs, no transport costs, no newsagent fees (although they’ve cut them now) and less staff and offices. However they didn’t factor in the fact that no-one wants to advertise on rubbish websites that are as small as a smartphone screen. Add in the surge of ad-blockers and people’s hate for pop-up ads and silly surveys and it’s quite clear that digital will never work. They know this but continue to FLOG THE DEAD DIGITAL HORSE! In their greed they threw in the print towel instantly and way too soon and are now stuck with something that will be a millstone around their necks. A white elephant. Yet they are so stupid and full of vanity that they keep trying to push it. Good and talented staff have been dumped on the scrapheap and consequently papers are becoming rags full of useless information and devoid of much of what people want to see and read.Their policies are completely suicidal and self destructive. I will NEVER understand their logic…probably because there is none!

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  • June 28, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Digital Dead Horse, you make great points about local websites but you are completely missing the point about digital.

    Yes, many local websites are poor and the desperation of regional publishers to fill the gap left by the decline in print advertising has only exacerbated that problem. Hence, the silly surveys and endless pop-ups.

    But what you then have to remember is that digital is happening anyway, regardless of how well existing publishers do it, and print will continue to decline regardless of any investment.

    What established publishers need to do is invest in digital properly in terms of technology and staff, both in advertising AND editorial. What we’ve ended up with is some investment in digital advertising which has had limited short-term success but doesn’t address the real issue around monetising local audiences, which the printed paper has historically achieved.

    Traditional local publishers have tried to follow the global digital models of bigger audiences mean more profits, but surely relevance to the market audience is still the key issue for local advertisers? Or perhaps the digital revolution has given local business owners an insight into how much money they’ve wasted in print over the last 20 years, especially now they can do it more effectively on Facebook themselves for a fraction of the price?

    No one in their right mind would invest in print for the long-term but there is a lot of profit to be made in the short-term from asset stripping ailing print publications and selling off the remains as ‘going concerns’ to local consortia.

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  • June 28, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Advertising in local papers was always the medium of choice as alternatives weren’t there to use to any great extent and so newspaper publishers had the monopoly,now with vastly declining readerships and lack of quality content through a shift to online sites ,coupled with new leaner independent publishers emerging and producing good strong alternatives aimed ateither a geographical area or specific demographic, the future for local papers is extremely bleak,publishers won’t invest so the decline goes on while local papers limp along to an ever diminishing audience until such time as the boards can no longer justify propping them up, costs contribute to rise to produce and distribute them coupled with high numbers of staff involved in their production ,therefore to increase the price of an ailing product wth weak content makes no sense whatsoever and will only see further losses accrue

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  • June 29, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I hear JP have transferrd their Stornaway Gazette advertising facilities to Edinburgh. The people of the Outer Hebrides are right chuffed!! Another example of JP’s total insensitivity to local needs.

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  • June 30, 2017 at 9:02 am

    If the newsagents refused to stock these papers the costs to the publisher to get the papers to market would be far more than the paltry cut the agents receive.

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  • July 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    The Coleraine Times in Northern Ireland (£1.75) is one of JP’s most expensive titles. Yet it was scooped this week by its less expensive rival, the Coleraine Chronicle, that a £40m hotel project is set for nearby Portrush. Poor show, JP.

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