Four Knight Ridder newspapers lower Sunday prices

By Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press
Wednesday June 12, 2002

Contra Costa Times dropped to 50-cent Sunday edition 


SAN FRANCISCO – Four Knight Ridder newspapers, including the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, have reduced their Sunday newsstand price during the past two months in a push to attract more readers and reverse a prolonged circulation slide at the nation’s second-largest newspaper company. 

The price cuts represent the most tangible evidence yet of San Jose-based Knight Ridder’s resolve to stop a slow but steady erosion in circulation that has occurred in recent years while management catered to investors by trimming expenses to boost profit margins. 

After engineering an 11 percent work force reduction that eliminated 2,200 jobs last year, Knight Ridder Chief Executive Tony Ridder made readership growth a top priority this year. 

To emphasize the point, Ridder tied a larger portion of management’s bonuses to circulation gains and last month appointed a new vice president of circulation, Arden Dickey. 

The papers that have lowered their Sunday prices by 25 cents to 50 cents since April are: the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota; the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek; the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio; and the Kansas City Star. 

Although that’s only a handful of Knight Ridder’s 32 daily newspapers, industry analysts believe the discounts will become more widespread. 

Ridder “is 100 percent focused on getting circulation growing again,” said analyst Peter Appert of Deutsche Bank Securities. “It’s refreshing to see a top industry executive so aggressively focused on the topic.” 

Contacted Tuesday, a Knight Ridder official declined to comment on the company’s plans, citing competitive reasons. 

Ridder told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in late April that the company intended to build circulation “through a combination of content improvement, increased promotion, more thoughtful pricing (and) discount strategies.” 

While declining readership has plagued the industry for decades, the problem has been more acute at Knight Ridder in recent years.