How to get paid by Lord Rothermere for reading about the death of newspapers

Lovely column on an unlovely subject by Roy Greenslade in today’s Evening Standard. Greenslade’s piece underlines the failure of price cuts and bulks to stem the The Sun‘s long circulation decline.

In what seems to have become a bit of a personal crusade, Greenslade writes:

Enormous sums are being wasted by News International in order to conceal an undeniable underlying truth: the mass market for newspapers is a doomed market.

I’m sure that the bulks and the price cuts and The London Paper don’t look like waste from Murdoch’s perspective.

News International’s aggression is a standing warning to dumb-ass trophy buyers who might be tempted to try it on at The Mirror or Independent before these papers enter their dotage.

Murdoch is also sending a clear signal that News Corp intends to dominate the business of squeezing the final drops of value out of the national newspaper market. For market leaders, decline can be optimised, just like everything else.

My own maths suggest that the number of readers willing to pay full price for The Sun will decline to less than 1m by 2015. (There are currently 2.1m of them, down from 2.7m in April 2006.)

Things seem likely to come to a head sooner at the Evening Standard.

Because I no longer commute, I don’t get to read the Standard much these days. On this occasion, however, a representative of WH Smith made me an offer I couldn’t refuse as I walked to the cash till.

“Have you got a magazine costing more than £3 in that pile, sir?”

Yes, I answered. (Actually, I had several.)

“Then buy the Evening Standard and we’ll refund you £1 on your bill.”

I must have looked a bit non-plussed. He clarified the deal with the infinite patience of a Key Stage 1 teacher:

“Take this, and we’ll give you 50p.”

At which point, I grabbed the bundle of newsprint, feeling as if I ought to make a charitable contribution.

Or something.

Never mind Murdoch’s price cuts. Or the freesheets. Chris Anderson will have a coronary when he hears that Rothermere and WH Smith have started paying Londoners to read the Standard.

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