The New York Post's plan to try and reduce its losses – reputedly running at more than $10 million a year – by doubling its newsstand price from 25 cents to 50 cents didn't work out as planned.
Not when its big rival, the Daily News, did just the opposite – and slashed its newsstand price from 50 cents to 25 cents.
After just two weeks The Post conceded defeat. It admitted that newsstand sales, especially in mid-town Manhattan, had plummeted. At some outlets sales were down 20 per cent.
Post executives had felt confident that even with a price hike they could hold their new slim lead in circulation – 724.000 compared to the News' sales of 718,000.
But they were wrong there too. The Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, originally slashed its price to a quarter seven years ago. It worked. Circulation nearly doubled. The Daily News, which held to its 50 cent news-stand price, began to feel the pinch.
On the day The Post went back to 50 cents, The News retaliated. As a result its sales in the two weeks climbed 30 per cent. So what does it mean? Experts suggest you can't truly count on newspaper readers' loyalty.
A few cents saved each day can make a difference. The suspicion is that if The Post had continued with its price increase – it would once again fall behind The News in sales. So down comes its price again – as soon probably as today, but certainly by this weekend.
That, for The News, which is owned by real-estate millionaire Mort Zuckerman, is a rare victory in the New York war of the tabloids.
A jubilant Martin Dunn, editor in chief of The News, said: "We sold at 50 cents for seven years without anyone batting an eye. The Post couldn't go seven days without panicking" The News he added will stay at the cut-rate 25 cents – at least for a few more weeks.