Closure of Newsquest's Oxford Star prompts rival publisher to launch three new editions

The owner of a series of a free newspapers in Oxfordshire has said that rival publishers are making a mistake by increasing cover prices.

Taylor Newspapers this week unveiled three new local editions of the South Oxfordshire Guardian after Newsquest announced a 25p increase for its weekly Herald series.

Owner and managing director of Taylor Newspapers, Howard Taylor, said the launch of separate editions for Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage and Grove had been brought forward because of the closure of Newsquest’s free title, the Oxford Star.

“We were planning to do this anyway but what brought it forward was the demise of the Star,” he said.

Taylor added that he believed the 55 per cent price increase would steer Oxfordshire readers away from paid-for titles and towards his papers.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about cover price and we’ve seen them being hiked over the last few weeks. My view is that it will further the demise of those products.

“There is strong demand for local news but for the public to pick up that news free of charge.”

The first copies of the new editions hit the streets yesterday, carrying at least three pages of exclusive news for each sub-region. Taylor promised that this would grow to between five and seven pages in the coming weeks.

He added that the group was “working on further new editions” and maintained his commitment to offering all titles free of charge.

No new journalists are being employed as a result of the change.

Asked whether the titles could survive without the benefit of subscription income, Taylor said: "The cost of employing journalists is covered by revenue from advertisers. That’s always been the case.”

The Herald series, which also covers Oxfordshire, announced its price hike last week, with editor Simon O’Neill also announcing a range of new features and columnists. Its sister daily title, the Oxford Mail, has also increased its price from 45p to 65p this week.

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