Cover prices of national newspapers increased by 14% in past year

By Hamish Mackay

New in-depth research has revealed that cover prices for national newspapers have increased by 14% over the past year. It would currently cost £129.85 to buy every edition of Fleet Street titles in one week – up from £113.70 a year ago. In January 2013, before closure of the print version of The Independent daily, the cost would have been £78.50 – meaning an increase in price of 63% over the past decade.William Turvill, a staffman for the Press Gazette, reports: ‘Newspaper cover price inflation appears to have been slightly ahead of the UK’s national average, which hit 10.5% in December. Still, only one newspaper title, the FT Weekend (cover price: £4.80), is more expensive than the average pint of draught lager (£4.24 in December), according to the Office for National Statistics.

‘On a weekday, it would cost £17 to buy every Fleet Street daily – The TimesThe Daily TelegraphThe GuardianiFinancial TimesDaily MailDaily ExpressDaily MirrorThe Sun and Daily Star from a newsagent – up from £14.80 in January 2022, or £9.60 in 2013 when The Independent was included in the count.

‘On a Saturday, the cover prices of the national newspapers – The TimesThe Daily TelegraphThe GuardianFT Weekendi WeekendDaily MailDaily ExpressDaily MirrorDaily Star and The Sun – add up to £23.75 which is an increase of 16% year-on-year from £20.50. In January 2013, the total cost would have been £14.15.’

However, Turvill notes that Sunday newspaper prices have risen more steadily. The total cost of Fleet Street’s Sundays – The Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, The Mail on Sunday, Sunday Express, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Daily Star Sunday and The Sun on Sunday – is £21.10 which is up 10% from £19.20 a year ago and from £15.40 in January 2013.

He reports that the steepest price increases over the past year have been introduced by Reach plc – the UK’s largest commercial news business. The Daily Express cost 80p per weekday in January 2022 and is now priced at £1.20 which is a 50% rise. The Saturday edition of the Daily Express now costs £1.75, up 35%; the Daily Star costs 80p, up 33%; and the Saturday edition of the Daily Star is now £1.30, up 30%.

The daily edition of the Daily Star remains the joint least expensive Fleet Street newspaper alongside the i and The Sun – both of which cost 80p on weekdays. The most expensive individual newspapers are FT Weekend (£4.80, up 12% on January 2022), The Guardian Saturday (£3.50, flat), The Observer (£3.50, flat) and The Sunday Times (£3.50, up 17% from £3 a year ago).

Turvill points out: ‘Publishers, which offer discounted issue rates through subscription packages, have raised cover prices in part to compensate for declines in circulation. Over the past year, in particular, prices have been affected by the rising price of paper. In July 2022, Reach revealed it had experienced a 65% annual jump in newsprint costs. News publishers have switched much of their focus to building digital subscriptions or online advertising businesses in recent years.

‘Owen Meredith, chief executive of the News Media Association, which represents news publishers across the UK, said: Despite cover price rises, news brands remain great value for money – they continue to expose, report and investigate on behalf of their readers, all whilst battling challenges from the dominance of the tech platforms to the rising cost of newsprint.’

William Turvill is associate editor (interviews and investigations) for Press Gazette and also a media correspondent for The New Statesman. Previously, he was a business correspondent for The Mail on Sunday and chief reporter of City A.M.

SNS hits out at proposed alcohol advertising ban in newspapers
The Scottish Newspaper Society (SNS) has hit out at a threat by the Scottish Government to ban alcohol advertisers in newspapers which it claims could cost the larger publishers up to £1.5m a year in revenue.

HoldtheFrontPage (HTFP) reports that SNS says the Scottish Government’s plan could wipe out one-eighth of advertising revenues and ‘cripple local newspapers’.

HTFP explains: ‘The warning by SNS comes after it surveyed Scottish news publishers about the impact of the proposed ban. It believes the move could force UK-wide publishers to either produce Scotland-only editions of single edition magazines or not distribute in Scotland at all, while the viability of the Scottish Press Awards – which is sponsored by Diageo, Edrington and Glenmorangie – could also be threatened’.

SNS director, John McLellan, points out: ‘The Scottish Government’s threat to alcohol advertising and marketing in newspapers and magazines is based on little more than a whim that children might be influenced by what they might come across in publications primarily aimed at and read by adults, and limited anecdotal evidence that some people struggling with addictions might relapse if they see an advert.

‘The consultation paper produces no concrete evidence to prove the extent of the effect of advertising in news brands on children or people suffering addiction issues, yet the clear intention is to knock this leg from under our businesses and cripple them in the process.

‘The justification for such a draconian approach is in case advertising migrates to news brands if it is banned elsewhere, as if there are audiences in search of alcohol adverts who will migrate too.

‘It is only a theory amongst the civil servants who produced the consultation document that the effect of reducing adverts in other media would be impaired by the continued availability of marketing in news brands, and that’s no basis on which to inflict serious harm on our already very hard-pressed sector.’

Scottish Press Awards sponsorship would be under threat if advertising were banned.

Those who took part in the survey voiced concerns that the proposal would:

• Result in the loss of up to an eighth of advertising revenues – around £1.5 MILLION for bigger publishers in years with major events like World Cups.

• Threaten ‘best-buy’ features from drinks writers and potentially subject alcoholic drinks-related editorial coverage to legislation.

• Force UK-wide publishers to either produce Scotland-only editions of single edition magazines or not distribute in Scotland at all.

• End wine clubs as a feature in Scottish news publications.

• Threaten the viability of the Scottish Press Awards which is supported by Diageo, Edrington and Glenmorangie.

A consultation on the proposal is open until 9 March and the full consultation document can be accessed on the Scottish Newspaper Society website.

In a foreword to the consultation document, Marie Todd, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, said: ‘By restricting alcohol marketing in Scotland we hope to reduce the appeal of alcohol to our young people. This will support a reduction in consumption of alcohol and subsequently improve their health and health prospects as adults. It will also reduce the potential triggering effect that alcohol marketing can have on heavy drinkers and those in recovery or treatment. Restricting alcohol marketing will also support our ambition to change our troubled relationship with alcohol’.

Dame Frances calls for more action to help regional press
Dame Frances Cairncross, author of a wide-ranging review into the local news industry four years ago, is now calling for more action to help the regional press. She is disappointed that just one of the nine recommendations she made in her 2019 review has so far been fully implemented.

In a letter published by The Mail on Sunday, marking the fourth anniversary of the report’s publication, Dame Frances called for ‘targeted interventions to support local publishers’ and for the new Digital Markets Unit to be put on a statutory footing as soon as possible.

Following her 2019 recommendations, the then Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) unveiled a £2m fund to help the regional press explore ‘innovative ways’ to provide local public interest journalism.

However, Dame Frances claims more needs to be done. She wrote: ‘Today marks the fourth anniversary of the publication of my report into the sustainability of journalism in the UK. A lot has happened since then: the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have underlined the importance of trusted news. The Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has drawn particular attention to the fragile state of local news.

‘My report in 2019 laid out nine recommendations to support and sustain the news media sector. So far, only one of these has been fully implemented. If we want a culture in which journalism can thrive, we need to do much more. The reorganisation of the relevant government department must foster, rather than delay action.

‘That could involve bringing forward the legislation to give the Digital Markets Unit the statutory powers it so desperately needs to mitigate the imbalance of power between tech platforms and publishers, along with targeted interventions to support local publishers. Either or both of these would be a good place to start.’

The Digital Markets Unit, if put on a statutory footing, would have the power to step in to solve pricing disputes between news outlets and the tech giants. The recent UK Government reshuffle saw responsibility for the Digital Markets Unit legislation pass from the old DCMS to the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The Galloway Gazette acquired by Scottish firm Bann Media
The Galloway Gazette has changed hands in a swap deal between National World and Bann Media. National World has bought Northern Irish newspaper, the Banbridge Chronicle, just 13 months after the title was saved from closure by Scottish publishing firm Bann Media. As part of the deal, Bann Media owner, Medquest Group Ltd, will take over the running of National World’s The Galloway Gazette weekly newspaper.

Explaining the disposal of the Banbridge Chronicle, previously owned by the Hodgett family, Bann Media managing director, Peter Laidlaw, said he felt the ‘best interests of the staff, the title and the community were better served by being included in a larger progressive company due to the ongoing consolidation within the regional press’. On the decision to acquire The Galloway Gazette, he pointed out: ‘This title fits in very well with the DNG Media group of titles which we already own’. DNG publishes paid-for weeklies the Annandale HeraldAnnandale Observer and Moffat News, plus the free Dumfries Courier.

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Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK’s exceedingly diverse media market. His media column appears weekly in the Scottish Review

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