Delfi: EPL Monday edition would have cost 'ten times' more if continued

The three major daily (or in Õhtuleht's case, evening) papers printed in Estonia, though not on Mondays any more.
The three major daily (or in Õhtuleht's case, evening) papers printed in Estonia, though not on Mondays any more. Source: ERR

Continuing to publish the Monday print edition of daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) would have led to a tenfold increase in cover price, media manager at the company which operates the paper, AS Delfi, says.

At the same time, the newspaper will continue to appear four times per week in the meantime.

"It still tends to be a one-way street; if we even look at what is happening in other countries, there has been a very good situation with print newspapers," AS Delfi media manager Argo Virkebau told ERR's radio news Wednesday.

"Estonians in general are big newspaper readers and lovers of papers, as well as being book readers, and thanks to this, our market has been more like that of Scandinavia, where newspaper uptake has remained very strong, even compared with Latvia and Lithuania," he went on.

The reader still expects a paper edition of EPL, and publishing one has been economically beneficial so far, he added, though it will still have to be subsidized at the expense of digital media, which has done well.

This state of affairs is not possible indefinitely, however, according to Virkebau.

EPL has a website updated daily.

Rivals Postimees and Õhtuleht had already announced an end to Monday print issues several weeks ago, following a price hike by state-owned postal service Omniva which will lead to an increase in delivery costs of up to 22 percent, with more outlying areas of the country hardest hit.

Virkebau said there were various options on the table with EPL at that point, but the decisive factor was that the price of the Monday edition would increase up to 10 times. "It is not possible to cover the entire market entry alone. This is a sad fact," he said.

Ending the publication of the print paper completely, as happened with business daily Äripäev just before Christmas, would not be economically sensible, he said, in terms of maintaining journalistic quality and staff roster which filters over to the digital media version just as subscription and ad revenues work in the opposite direction.

This greater credibility given by maintaining a print newspaper could be seen with other market participant publications, he added, while there was no call for a newspaper to become some sort of luxury product – which looking at trends with input prices, it is nonetheless moving towards.

Had a merger of Omniva/Eesti Post with Ekspress Post gone ahead, this may have led to the Monday edition continuing, he added, though this was hard to fully assess.

The Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) had barred this merger.

"We are certainly looking for a way for a carrier network to emerge in a way that is acceptable to the Competition Authority," Virkebau added.

EPL circulation is around 10,000, compared with around 85,000 digital subscribers.

"In this way, nearly 160,000 people, including their family members, will be able to subscribe. Nowadays, the competitive advantage is formed digitally, but the print paper does not see a fully competitive market."

The role of the newspaper has changed over time, with conveying breaking news necessarily harder to achieve than it is online, Virkebau added, but most other formats and genres still work well within the print framework, he added.

The loss of the Monday edition will mean the disappearance of the ad revenue from classifieds published therein, but boosting the size of the remaining four issues per week will make up for some of this, Virkebau said.

The Saturday edition of EPL was discontinued in 2019, for the same reasons.

EPL belongs to the same media group which publishes the print weeklies, and their online equivalents, Eesti Ekspress and Maaleht.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

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