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Charles Dickens, one of Britain’s greatest ever authors, made his fortune in serialised novels. Recognising the importance of street sellers to this, he spent 16 years as president of a benevolent fund seeing that news-vendors got a fair deal. NewstrAid, or Old Ben as it has been known for 173 years, still works hard ensuring those in the news industry are well looked after. But Dickens’ spirit is missing in parts of the trade today.
Johnston Press has been ruthless in its pursuit of profit growth and last week announced it would keep every penny of cover price increases on 35 regional’s. This week, it said it will keep the lion’s share of increases on 35 more titles. RN reader Peter Dulieu has worked out that while the publisher is making an extra £2,426 a week before wholesale commission from shrinking sales of the Melton Times, he is making £162 less.
Meanwhile, a retailer told RN last week that despite Time Out turning freesheet, his loyal customers in London’s suburbs would pay for a copy. I tweeted this to the publisher and was directed enthusiastically towards a link for 50p subscriptions. What about the retailer’s 35 lost sales each week, I asked? Could he sell copies for 50p as he does with the Evening? I didn’t hear back.
Also last week, 1,900 retailers discovered they will be charged an extra £8.50 per week by Menzies for supply of News International titles. This is being justified with a line in its Ts & Cs allowing for such exceptional charges to be raised. The industry must realise everyone is going through, ahem, Hard Times, and attempts to improve the bottom line shouldn’t involve customers losing out or retailers being denied a decent living.
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