The Oxford Times is increasing its cover price by more than 50 per cent, as its editor warned readers that the once lucrative advertising revenue that “effectively subsidised” local journalism was shrinking.
The price of the Newsquest weekly will this week rise from 85p to £1.30, an increase of 53 per cent.
Group editor Simon O’Neill justified the price hike by telling readers it was a “recognition of the fact that many of the advertising sectors which effectively subsidised quality local journalism are receding and if we want to maintain our high standards and provide coverage which is high quality and comprehensive, then we must charge a fair price”.
O’Neill said the dawn of the “digital age” coupled with the worst recession since the 1930s had changed the landscape of local news “forever”.
“People can now receive news and information in print, online, or on their mobile or handheld device and not just from traditional publishers,” he said.
“This has led to a fragmentation of the audience which has hit newspaper companies across the world like a tornado.
“For some, it may prove fatal. Here in Oxford, we have not been immune.”
The price rise comes as the paper celebrates its 150th anniversary, and was made following a series of focus groups with readers in June.
“Their views were fed into a major overhaul of the paper aimed at making it easier to read, providing more news and information and modernising the look, without sacrificing the identity that so many readers hold dear,” added O’Neill.
“The popular Weekend section will become a pull-out to make it easier to find and we will also help readers make decisions about their leisure activities by looking ahead more.
“New writers and columnists will add breadth and depth to our coverage and there will be a year-long programme of activities, sponsorship, competitions and offers to mark the paper’s 150th year.”
O’Neill also insisted that “despite what the doom mongers say, print is not dead”, adding that “The Oxford Times will survive and flourish in the digital age.”
The paper’s history will be celebrated in a 28-page supplement to mark its anniversary this week.
ABC figures released last week show circulation on the paper fell 12 per cent to 14,210 in the first half of 2012.