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INL turns on Herald

By John Drinnan

Friday 9th May 2003

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Competition between the two big newspaper stables is hotting up as John Fairfax Holdings wraps up its takeover of INL newspapers.

INL afternoon title the Waikato Times announced plans to publish its Saturday edition in the morning, putting it in more direct competition against Wilson & Horton's Weekend Herald for counter sales.

The morning weekend edition starts on July 5, about the same time as Fairfax is expected to close the $1.18 million deal.

Waikato Times general manager David MacKenzie said Fairfax backed the move.

The morning edition will give the paper a longer shelf life and be more attractive to advertisers.

Waikato Times editor Venetia Sherson said it would have a different look and 20 extra pages but no decision had been made yet whether to brand it distinct from the weekday paper.

Wilson & Horton afternoon title Hawke's Bay Today made the shift to a branded weekend morning edition last October and reported a 25% increase in counter sales for that edition.

Meanwhile, there is still intense speculation about how Fairfax intends to make efficiency gains from INL newspapers.

Industry insiders tipped a rethink of printing operations and rise in cover prices for some titles.

Fairfax chief executive Fred Hilmer and Brian Evans, the Fairfax executive who will run the New Zealand operations. met senior executives last week.

Mr Evans declined to discuss company plans while due diligence was proceeding but said he and Mr Hilmer had been happy after meetings this week with senior executives including editors.

An Australian newspaper industry source familiar with Mr Evans' style predicted that once the deal was passed he would move swiftly to increase cover prices.

Fairfax had been encouraged by the experience of the New Zealand Herald, which had increased its cover price without losing sales and that was seen as a simple way to increase revenue.

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