Periodical delivery fees going up at least 22 percent will hit Estonia's regional newspapers especially hard, as they are dependent on both print subscriptions as well as deliveries. In light of Omniva's price hike, local papers are planning to raise cover prices as well, as media leaders criticize both the postal service provider's actions as well as the little help from the state.
Lääne Elu publisher Arne Veske told ERR that of course they are affected by Omniva's delivery fee increase, and he is prepared to protest it.
"A little paper like ours won't change this world order, but if a bigger group starts to fight this price increase, then we'll join them," Veske said. "I don't think Omniva can do its job."
The fee hike has Viljandi-based Sakala editor-in-chief Hans Väre worried as well.
"I have yet to see someone rejoice over a price increase," he said. "Especially as it's so big — that's not pleasant. It's clear that Eesti Post's costs have gone up too — fuel and wages, as it still isn't easy to find workers in this field."
Asked whether Sakala intends to raise its cover price, Väre acknowledged that this will indeed likely have to be done from next year.
"Omniva's price increase isn't the only price increase affecting us; the price of paper alone has doubled, as has office rent," he said. "Employees' wage pressure is high, as their costs have gone up as well."
By how much Sakala will be increasing its cover price, however, he couldn't yet say.
According to the Sakala editor-in-chief, state subsidies paid on periodical home deliveries should take the increase in the cost of living into account.
"As AS Eesti Post is also a state-owned enterprise, the state can see this increase in costs," he highlighted. "Then it would be logical for the home delivery subsidy to increase. This is particularly necessary for those people who are price-sensitive and who also don't really have any alternatives."
This year, the Estonian state subsidized the home delivery of periodicals in rural areas with €4.528 million.
Väre also noted that maintaining two delivery networks — with AS Express Post and AS Eesti Post — is expensive. "One would expect competition to drive prices down, but if this business isn't profitable for either of them, it would be reasonable for there to be one company that handles this," he said.
Põhjarannik banking on regional development
The staff at the bilingual Estonian-Russian Põhjarannik remains optimistic despite everything, according to Erik Gamzejev, editor-in-chief of the Ida-Viru County paper.
"So it is that you hope for the best but prepare for the worst," Gamzejev said. "These price increases by Omniva have been disproportionately large in the past, but this 22 percent price hike will give our employees the opportunity to do more work and work longer days because [we'll be] deprived of such a large share of revenues."
He said that they've fought with Omniva over the price increase as well. "We've said that this will have repercussions both for papers as well as for home delivery prices," he recalled. "Proving this has been relatively nerve-wracking, and that is also why we don't tend to do it much either."
Põhjarannik will be raising its cover price from next year as well.
"We have to raise the price from the new year because the Tax Board also wants its cut, and the printers have raised prices," Gamzejev acknowledged. "We've also launched a digital paper, so if you are worried about county papers, then subscribe to our digital paper."
Põhjarannik's Russian-speaking readers are accustomed to getting everything for free and are very price-sensitive, the editor-in-chief said, noting that nearly 40 percent of Ida-Viru County residents live in relative poverty.
Nonetheless, he is choosing to remain optimistic. "Politicians have said that Ida-Viru County is Estonia's fastest developing region," Gamzejev said. "That means that everyone who wants to do business here and sell something also needs an advertising channel."
He added that Ida-Viru County has been waiting too long already for the development of the region.
AS Eesti Post, a state-owned company and Estonia's universal postal service provider operating under the Omniva brand, has informed business customers that it will be increasing the price of periodical deliveries by at least 22 percent from next year on condition that periodical home delivery volumes don't fall by more than five percent.
Should delivery volumes fall any more than that, Omniva says it will raise delivery fees even further — for every percent of a fall in delivery volumes exceeding five, prices will go up another 1.2 percent.
Editor: Aili Vahtla