MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Forget price ploys, readers pay up for a really good read

What a messy little business these newspaper price wars are, if only because they’ve served to expose the rampant hypocrisy that is clearly bubbling away beneath the surface of the nation’s newspaper institutions.

What a messy little business these newspaper price wars are, if

only because they’ve served to expose the rampant hypocrisy that is

clearly bubbling away beneath the surface of the nation’s newspaper

institutions.



First, the House of Lords backed an amendment to the Competition Bill

that could outlaw a newspaper abusing its market position by

undercutting rivals. This - aimed directly at Rupert Murdoch’s

newspapers - drew much support from the Times’ s competitors.



Take the Guardian, for example, which bleated that if the Independent

were to close, consumer choice would diminish and prices could,

ultimately, rise. Could this be the same Guardian newspaper (which is,

incidentally, still my daily newspaper of choice) that is now targeting

Independent readers with a raft of price offers and coupons for the

Guardian and its sister Sunday title, the Observer?



Of course. But who could really blame any publisher for using all its

armoury to fight for market share? It’s a tough old world out there and,

like it or not, this is a free market, with all the attendant benefits

and pitfalls.



Yes, the Guardian is guilty of hypocrisy, but is this really any more

hypocritical than the Independent which, admittedly a few incarnations

ago, chose to launch a Sunday paper to put the old Sunday Correspondent

out of business? More worrying is the way each newspaper has used its

own editorial to forward its self-serving views, which is, at best,

distasteful and, at worst, damaging to the papers’ editorial

integrity.



But scrape away the hypocrisy and the question remains - are people

reading the Times because it’s cheap and not reading the Independent

because it’s more expensive? I can’t believe this is the case. For all

its good points (and there are still some), the Independent has not

(lately) found a formula which enough readers want to buy into at any

price, and its sickly health dates back to before the Times slashed its

price. Why should the Independent be protected and cosseted from the

sort of competitive market forces that dominate most other product

sectors?



The Guardian itself is a prime example of quality seeing off competitive

pricing tactics. The paper has, to date, undertaken no price cutting of

any note, and its advertising and promotion has been low-key, but the

paper has thrived because of the calibre of its editorial and won

plaudits for doing so. Then there’s the Telegraph. It, rather than the

Times, is still the dominant paper in the market and, while the Times

has it in its sights, its readers are not deserting the paper in droves

for the sake of a few more pence in their pockets.



Would any advertisers or agencies mourn the Independent? I doubt it.



But you can bet a few are looking forward to greater coverage for their

ads in the Guardian following this new promotion.



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