With the Sunday Times becoming the first Â£2 newspaper tomorrow, the economics of newspapers are looking increasingly strange. With circulations falling, paid-for papers are putting up prices at the same time as their owners are launching freebies.
The Evening Standard in London had put up its price by 10p to 50p before launching London Lite. Given the inevitability of of a battle of the freesheets in the capital there is some sense in repositioning the paper as a quality publication aimed at an elite readership. At the same time the extra revenue will be useful in the fight with thelondonpaper.
According the the Guardian, News International is looking to “recoup its investment” in thelondopaper by adding 20p to the price of The Sunday Times. If this is true every reader outside London will have good reason to feel resentful, not even having the chance to get copies of the free evening.
At the same time the Telegraph Group which is moving to a new integrated multi-media newsroom is also putting up prices. The daily will rise to 70p putting it level with the Guardian and The Independent. The Sunday goes up 20p to Â£1.80 and the Saturday to Â£1.40.
All this at a time when sales are being lost. It just about makes sense if printed editions are becoming premium products in a news market where there is a choice between online and paper.
With The Times and the Telegraph waking up to the online world — the Guardian is already there — only The Independent, among the heavies, is still seeing itself resolutely as a paper product.
Not buying the Â£2 Sunday Times tomorrow will mean missing out on the free Jimi Hendrix CD. But how can it now be before online versions start offering free MP3 downloads.