Progress hikes single-issue price 50%
In a world where daily newspaper readership is sinking like a water-soaked Sunday edition, the single-copy price for the Daily Progress has actually just gone up. Beginning Monday, September 1, says publisher Lawrence McConnell, the newsstand price of the daily jumped from 50 to 75 cents.
Despite the fact that this 50 percent price hike mirrors one made the same day at fellow Media General paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, McConnell says the decision was his and should help bolster subscription sales, whose price– around $177 per year– remains unchanged.
"It'll certainly be an encouragement," says McConnell, "to take home delivery."
Despite fears that such moves could further alienate readers, who– in recent years– have flocked away from traditional newspaper readership in favor of freebies such as the Internet, McConnell points out that some other newspapers have also raised prices. The Washington Post, for instance, which has a strong Charlottesville presence, raised its single-copy price from 35 to 50 cents on December 31. Over the summer, both newsstand and subscriptions jumped again to 75 cents a paper.
Can the Progress really bolster revenues this way? "It's hard to answer the question on Wednesday when we raised the price on Monday," McConnell answers.
"I guess it's better to hike the price than continue to fire people," says media watchdog Waldo Jaquith, though he called the increase– which moves the Progress about 50 percent higher than America's average daily– "ginormous."
In early July, the Progress announced that, to avoid expensive equipment upgrades, it was laying off its entire printing staff of 25 people and turning the printing task over to Media General's mega-press in Hanover County.
The Sunday single-copy price, $1.50, is unchanged. And Media General spokesperson Ray Kozakewicz notes that the daily price increase is part of chain-wide move, the first increase since the mid-1990s.
"During this time,' says Kozakewicz, "both production and distribution costs have sky-rocketed at our newspapers, yet we have held the line on raising prices. "Some of the proceeds are being shared with the carriers," says Kozakewicz.
"With the tremendous increase in gasoline prices," says Kozakewicz, "Media General felt it was time to raise daily single-copy prices, sharing a good portion of the proceeds with our carriers.”
In recent years, a mostly free service called Craigslist has devoured the classified advertising industry and pinched the profit margins of papers that had depended on it. Last month, Media General, announced that publishing revenues were down yet again, this time nearly 14 percent over the same period a year earlier, mostly due to weaker sales in classified advertising.
In 2006, the Progress had an average daily circulation of 29,415. Today, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it stands at 28,697 for the six-month period that ended in March.
"We're no different," says McConnell, "from any other daily newspaper in the United States."
–updated 2:59pm, September 11