I read an intriguing article in today’s Media Guardian about a London scheme for selling more newspapers. News International has started offering top-up publications alongside subscriptions for some of its own stable – the Times and Sunday Times. The free delivery scheme actually started last July but has now been expanded to include non-NI publications such as Grazia, the Radio Times, the Economist and NI’s tabloids (the Sun and News of the World).
At present, the scheme is only available within the M25, but it could serve as a useful model across the UK for boosting newspaper sales, which have been in decline for a long time. Despite being a journalist, I rarely buy newspapers any more. I purchased the Guardian twice last week as I was out of the house both days, but being on the move is the only time I buy a physical copy unless I have had something published in the press. Otherwise I do what so many others do these days – I read the papers online, for free.
I have little incentive to buy a paper when my nearest newsagent is a good 8 minutes walk away but my PC is in my front room. But I do buy a lot of magazines and my local newsagents stock a very limited selection of titles, so I usually have to head into Manchester city centre to buy the mags I want. And I’ve just purchased a year’s subscription to the Radio Times because I struggle to find even that locally.
The beauty of the NI scheme, apart from free delivery, is you don’t need to spend masses of cash in advance on a lengthy subscription. You can buy what you want, for as long as you want, and top it up to suit. You can change your order the night before and you can do it all online. Just as well, when it’s increasingly difficult to find a newsagent that will deliver.
Rolling out this kind of option further afield and offering more magazines alongside could be a winner when it comes to encouraging readers to return to a paper. I know that such a scheme within the boundaries of the M60 and offering a good selection of magazines alongside would certainly get my vote – and my cash. I’d love to hear the sound of my favourite paper and magazines gently plopping onto my doormat at 7am, ready to be pored over with my breakfast cuppa.
News International has failed to convince me so far that paywalls on its newspaper websites are the answer. I’ll simply stop dipping into the News of the World for a free skim of the celebrity gossip once I have to pay. But this plan, which seems to be doing well so far or why else increase the range of magazines you can buy alongside the Times, could just do the trick in helping up sales of print editions. No doubt NI is already planning its next move for this scheme. I for one will be keeping a keen eye on its development.