Bullivant calls emergency meeting to save free newspaper

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NEWSPAPER publisher Chris Bullivant has told advertisers that his latest free title in Birmingham will fail if they don’t rally round to support it.

And in a letter to customers he accused rival publisher Trinity Mirror of slashing prices to drive him out of business. He told TheBusinessDesk.com he was “in a dialogue with BPM Media” over pricing.

He said: “ A number of my customers have been lured back to Trinity Mirror, and if that continues, we’ll have to close.”

A spokesperson for Trinity Mirror said: “We don’t engage in anti-competitive practice.”

The media business veteran sparked a mini newspaper war in the city earlier this year with the launch of the Birmingham Press – a part-free, part-paid title – and then a giveaway sister paper the Birmingham Free Press in June .

Both rely heavily on advertisements placed by estate agents – a model that’s been at the heart of Bullivant’s various publishing businesses for more than 40 years. His latest launches were a direct attack on the Birmingham Mail and its ‘Extra’ free sister paper, as well as the Birmingham Post, which ceased daily publication last year to become a weekly.

Trinity Mirror responded by launching The Birmingham Post ‘Lite ’, which is delivered free to the same upmarket city suburbs targeted by Bullivant’s Press.

The publishers’ fight has centred on property advertising, because this delivers to newspapers consistent revenue as well as compelling content that has traditionally attracted readers.

Trinity Mirror has been offering estate agents full page advertisements in its titles for as little as £150 , which Bullivant says is ‘”an attempt to remove us from the marketplace.”

He said: “We cannot compete with such rates, as they are below the cost of production, and as a small, new business, we cannot continue to sustain the impact that has on our company.”

Mr Bullivant has called a meeting of estate agents to invite them to form a consortium that would own a part of the Birmingham Free Press, and claims that a similar enterprise in the South of England yielded his estate agent partners £2.2million when it was sold three years ago. The meeting is expected to be held next week.

He told TheBusinessDesk.com his main title, the Birmingham Press, was unaffected.

  • Disclosure: the author of this report is a former Trinity Mirror employee and editor of The Birmingham Post
  • Blog post: Has Bullivant recruited The Stig as his new editor? Click here


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