So let's take a look at cash for coverage


Up go distress flags as down goes ad revenue. Trinity Mirror issues a profit warning. News International freezes recruitment. Associated and Pearson cut back.

What better moment for the industry to take its longest, hardest look at improving income other than by upping cover prices and watching hard-won circulation drop away?

The Newspaper Publishers Association and the Newspaper Society could do worse than research just how much free advertising we give promoters who can afford to pay for it.

Take horse racing, for a start. Is any marginal readership more pampered than punters? At immense cost, not only to the publishers but to the planet, entire forests are consumed to provide page upon page of racecard detail that 99 per cent of readers don’t give a damn about (even if 100 per cent of bookmakers applaud our generosity).

It is one thing to devote editorial space to the Derby, the National and the principal daily meeting on the calendar. But Wincanton?

And why should broadcasting PLCs get charity from publishing PLCs? After all, Richard Desmond happily stumped up £125m for Express Newspapers, which would not otherwise be listing his Fantasy Channel ("10.10 Voyeur, 10.20 Dildo Dan, 10.45 Film: Expose Me Again").

And how we rage at the BBC, which misuses licence fees to pay Camelot for the privilege of promoting the National Lottery. Camelot doesn’t even provide copy by identifying the winners. (For all we know, a dozen jackpots have been won by aunts of Camelot executives.)

Once upon a time, newspapers gave free space to columns of winning Premium Bond numbers. Then they managed to arrive at the view that the only reason any did it was that all did it. The great giveaway stopped, and all we run now is a par reporting the top winning numbers. (Nothing to do with such indifference, of course, but Premium Bonds are currently paying us for full-page ads to revive public interest.)

The acreage of free space we used to donate to the football pools has also dropped to insignificance.

What might we demand for listing football fixtures for the benefit of an industry which knows more about the cash value of its copyrights than we do about the cash value of our space?

The inability of publishers to reach joint agreement is legendary (and not always entirely unhealthy) but there would be no harm in mounting a study on whether cash for coverage could give our bottom lines the kiss of life.

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