The editor of the Pembrokeshire Herald has said he will boost the paper’s circulation by 7,000 copies each week as a direct response to advertising rates being cut at rival newspapers.
Thomas Sinclair said he plans to distribute the additional copies for free to five target areas in Pembrokeshire on a rotating weekly basis, meaning select homes would receive a free copy once every five weeks.
The extra papers will give the Herald the largest weekly circulation in the region, Sinclair has claimed, boosting its existing 6,500 paid-for circulation (unaudited figures) to 13,500 combined.
Paid-for weekly rivals the Western Telegraph, owned by Newsquest, sells 11,000 copies and Trinity Mirror’s Wales on Sunday sells 11,600 copies, according to ABC figures to the end of December last year.
Sinclair has twice been fined by the courts for breaching anonymity laws through news reports, including in May publishing information likely to identify a sex offence victim.
The circulation boost follows feedback from potential advertisers that rivals had “dropped [ad] prices” and that they could get “cheaper” deals elsewhere, said Sinclair.
He said the move would enable the Herald to offer a rival proposition to businesses based on circulation rather than ad pricing, which he said the paper cannot afford to match.
“What we can do is drop extra papers to guarantee we have a bigger circulation then our nearest rivals and that advertisers are going to get more eyeballs on their adverts” he told Press Gazette.
Sinclair said trials of free deliveries of the Herald over the past 12 months had resulted in a “small but significant” uplift in sales in those targeted areas the following week, which he hoped would be replicated.
Director of Sales Tim Evans added: “The print advertising market has been very competitive recently with our rivals dropping their prices quite significantly.
“The advantage that some of the longer established titles have over us is that they have been around forever and have had time to build their readership.
“What our business advertisers want and expect is a return on investment, with good value print advertising backed up by the numbers of copies shifted.
“We will now be able to catapult ourselves ahead of the competition and provide an opportunity for people who have not yet tried the Herald, or who have not bought it in a while to take a look at our product.”
Publisher Herald Newspapers, in which Sinclair is one of three shareholders, is set to expand its existing distribution team by about six staff and hire two more vans to meet the new demand.
The team currently delivers copies of the group’s free quarterly Pembrokeshire’s Best Magazine door-to-door.
“We have gotten used to doing those routes,” said Sinclair. “We have almost got the infrastructure in place to do it and we are confident we will be able to deliver the 7,000 extra papers.”
He also said that he would be hiring a new full-time reporter to provide more hyper-local news for each target area, bringing the editorial team count up to nine.
If the circulation increase is successful, Evans said the plan was to “repeat the exercise” with its other three titles: The Carmarthenshire Herald, The Llanelli Herald and The Ceredigion Herald.
The first batch of 7,000 free copies is due to go out to homes on Friday, 25 August.