Monday, 25 August 2008

Price hikes

How much is too much for a Toronto newspaper transported beyond the GTA for the benefit of readers who haven't given up on print media?

The Toronto Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star and Toronto Sun are all still available in communities well beyond the GTA - for a price.

Out here in the boondocks, the National Post is the bargain basement newspaper at $1 weekdays and $2 on Saturday. That is $7 a week, or $364 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Sun is next at $1.05 Monday through Saturday and $2.10 on Sunday, or $8.40 a week. That is $436.80 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Globe and Mail hiked its weekday price to $1.25 a few months ago and to $2.75 on Saturday. That is $9 a week, or $468 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

The Toronto Star will lead the pack as of Sept. 1 when it begins charging $1.50 Sunday through Friday and $3 on Saturday. That is $12 a week, or $624 a year, give or take a holiday or two.

Newspaper readers beyond the GTA who have an insatiable appetite for the content of all four Toronto newspapers would have to spend almost $1,900 a year to get their daily fix.

Holy Daily Planet, that is a big screen TV.

So what is the thinking of the Toronto execs when it comes to providing newspapers beyond the GTA? The Star attributes its Sept. 1 price hikes to "significantly higher costs of fuel and newsprint."

"Everyone is looking at the cost of delivery," a veteran Canadian newspaper executive tells TSF. "I believe it is only a matter of time before papers will either reduce their circulation by eliminating areas where the cost exceeds the cover price, or increase the cover price to match the costs.

"Any number of papers in North America have done this already," he says. "Look at the (almost) National Post. They've been pulling out of high cost areas for years. Major metros in the U.S. have been doing the same. Canwest has quietly been increasing the home delivery rates outside their core markets to reflect the rising costs of fuel and labour."

Newspapers for the print generation are still the best bargain in any town, but count on more selective purchases by people forced to rethink their spending habits.

We used to say the Sunday Sun was the best buy at any price, but not after they abruptly dropped the television guide and messed with the successful Sunday tab format.

Our best buys now are the $1.25 Friday Globe and Mail, with its excellent movie and TV package and the $1.05 Friday Sun for its weekend entertainment and sports pages.

We're having second thoughts about a $3 Saturday Star, as we did when the weighty New York Times weekend edition reached $8.

But we don't take the efforts of the Toronto dailies to provide out-of-towners with daily papers to read and enjoy for granted. It is a daily ritual that would be greatly missed.

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