They Stoop for Quarters

“Its price goes up and down like a whore’s drawers on the West Side Highway,” said Martin Dunn, editor in chief of the Daily News.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Dunn was talking about the New York Post when reached by phone on May 14.

The editors of the rival tabloids like to talk about each other’s papers in, well, colorful terms.

Even though, that particular morning on the newsstands, things were pretty much back to normal: the Post cost a quarter, the News 50 cents.

On April 30, after circulation numbers gave the Post a victory, the newspaper raised its price to 50 cents. A day later, Post editor Col Allan told The Observer that there had been a strategy in place for several years that called for matching the News’ price once they had overtaken their rival in circulation.

“It’s very difficult to compete against the Daily News on an equal price footing,” said Mr. Dunn.

Even Mr. Allan agreed, somewhat.

“There’s no question that we sold fewer copies than we sold the previous week,” he said of the week they doubled the price. “But it was well within our estimation of what would happen.”

“In 30 years in the business, I’ve never seen a newspaper put its price up and down in such quick succession,” said Mr. Dunn.

“Well, we’re always nimble, and that’s why we’re successful,” said Mr. Allan. “We’re engaged in a chess game here, and there are some moves to come.”


Mr. Allan wouldn’t reveal the next phase of attack, but said that the decision to go up and back down was made in consultation with publisher Paul Carlucci and—of course—Post chairman and owner Rupert Murdoch.

But was Mr. Murdoch perhaps preoccupied with wooing the Bancroft family members to purchase Dow Jones while all this was going on?

“He’s deeply interested in the business, as you would expect him to be,” said Mr. Allan of his boss.

Back in November 2006, Mr. Allan predicted to The Observer that his newspaper—with millions of dollars in reported losses—would move into the black within “a year or so.”

So was the 25-cent increase part of making that prediction a reality?

“In the medium term it was, but we always respond to market pressures,” said Mr. Allan. “Our business is improving. We are very happy with the financial position of the Post.”

They Stoop for Quarters