In January 2008, RN’s news content editor Ed Chadwick was working his last shift as the crime reporter for the Bolton News.

The 142-year-old paper, which had been bought by Newsquest 12 years earlier, cost customers 35p, paid a 25% retail margin and sold nearly 30,000 copies a day.

Six years later, the Bolton News costs 65p, 5p more than the Daily Mail and 10p more than the Daily Mirror in England, pays a 20% retail margin and sells 12,622 copies a day.

The 32.2% year-on-year sales decline it posted last month was by no means a black spot in last month’s shocking set of circulation figures.

The Lancashire Telegraph, which also raised its price from 45p to 65p in June 2013, was down 33.9% in the past 12 months. The Doncaster Star was down 32.2% in the same period, the Worcester News 27.7%, the Sheffield Star 23.3%. The list goes on.

Drastic price hikes, slimmed-down content and a suicidal ‘digital first’ policy will only push sales one way. Cutting the amount you pay your main distribution channel by a fifth is a recipe for disaster.

[pull_quote_right]Publishers need to start
working with retailers, rather
than alienating them[/pull_quote_right]

The Lancashire Telegraph, which also raised its price from 45p to 65p in June 2013, was down 33.9% in the past 12 months. The Doncaster Star was down 32.2% in the same period, the Worcester News 27.7%, the Sheffield Star 23.3%. The list goes on.

Drastic price hikes, slimmed-down content and a suicidal ‘digital first’ policy will only push sales one way. Cutting the amount you pay your main distribution channel by a fifth is a recipe for disaster.

However, there’s a brighter future for those that work with the trade, and publishers could do far worse than follow the example of the Stoke Sentinel. The title, whose sales were down a slightly more respectable 10.7% in the latest ABCs, is offering 50 top indies the chance to win

£500 by driving sales and pushing promotions including a free portion of chips for every reader offer and Easter days out.

When times are tough, you don’t give up on your customers, partners or product. Publishers need to start working with retailers, rather than alienating them, as a matter of urgency.