NI `would benefit from price hike’

News International’s newspapers will benefit from paper price rises in the long term by increasing their market share, according to a report on the national press by Equinox Communications.

“NI’s current problems are caused by paper availability or rather a lack of it,” says Simon Matthews, chief executive of Equinox, the Cordiant-owned media and marketing agency. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hurting because of paper costs.”

Matthews believes that NI’s deep pockets will allow it to continue to provide added-value sections in its newspapers, while its competitors are forced to cut sections.

The Equinox report also forsees the possibility of certain quality newspapers having to consider a tabloid format by mid-1996.

“Lots of young people are drifting away from newspapers which in turn are becoming less relevant as they make a smaller part of their readership,” Matthews adds.

“The combination of paper price increases and that uncatered-for young audience, which would be more willing to accept a tabloid quality newspaper, may encourage some publishers to go for it.”

The report states that national newspapers were forced to cut their cover prices because of a loss of brand identity. Declining overall readership of newspapers has caused titles to chase a “middle ground” of readers and in so doing lose their edge.

“It has become much easier to leap from one newspaper to another because of their move to consensual values,” says Matthews. “The Times would never have had to cut its price if it had stayed `the Thunderer’.”

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