LET’S get straight to the bad news: the price of your Oxford Mail will increase to 65p from Monday.

I know this will not go down well with many readers, given that we are living in straitened times, with the economy stagnant.

However, it is precisely because of the economic outlook – and fundamental changes to the structure of the local newspaper industry – that we have taken this step.

There will also be big improvements to the paper, with more pages, more news, sport, features, advertising and additional writers.

But before I talk about those, it is important that I explain our decision on the cover price in more detail.

Contrary to what some believe, news does not come free, or even cheap. Providing a comprehensive news, sport and information service to a county like Oxfordshire requires highly-skilled journalists and large numbers of them.

The advent of the Internet and the worst recession in living memory have placed our ability to sustain that under severe threat. The very future of some local newspapers is at risk.

The ‘double whammy’ of the web and mobile devices changing reader habits and the economic downturn has seen approximately half of UK regional newspaper advertising revenues vanish over the last five years.

These have always been the lifeblood of newspapers like ours, comprising as much as 80 per cent of the total income of some newspaper businesses. They effectively subsidised local journalism.

The response of the industry to the downturn has been to cut – hard, deep and fast – and hundreds of journalists have lost their jobs.

If this continued, local newspapers like ours would cease to be credible sources of reliable news. Already, the term ‘churnalism’ has been coined to describe the mentality which exists at a few local papers, with a handful of staff ‘filling’ their paper with whatever they could.

We have not been immune to the crisis, but we are still profitable and have more journalists covering Oxfordshire than all the other print and broadcast news organisations put together.

We have also earned a justified reputation for leading the county’s news agenda.

But we have had to make some tough decisions to preserve that – and we are asking you to do the same. In short, if we are to continue providing a strong, professional news service, we have to demand a fair price for it. And that price is considerably higher than the one we are currently charging.

The media landscape is changing at a bewildering rate. None of us know what the future holds, but we are determined to ensure the long-term survival of your local newspapers, in print and online.

Print will not die, despite what the ‘experts’ say. as long as it adapts for the digital age. Sadly, that comes at a price.

However, there IS good news. From Monday, your Oxford Mail will be relaunched as a bigger, brighter and even better newspaper.

To help us achieve this, we have conducted research among our readers. Many of their views have been fed into the changes, which are explained on the left.

Even at 65p, your Oxford Mail remains excellent value, given the changes outlined on this page and our on-going commitment to stand up for the people of Oxfordshire, report the highs and lows of county life and get things done on your behalf.

So I look forward to seeing you on Monday and welcome your views on our new look and new price.

See you on Monday.

  • Simon O'Neill does welcome your comments about the changes to the Oxford Mail, via email

What you will see in your new look bigger, brighter Oxford Mail

YOU will notice dramatic changes to the Oxford Mail from Monday – all achieved with a little help from our friends, the paper’s loyal readers.
Hundreds of you came forward to give us your views at focus groups in the city and via an in-paper survey.
The results will be unveiled from Monday. The paper, which has served Oxfordshire for 85 years, has undergone a major overhaul to bring it bang up to date and will be bigger, brighter and better than ever.
There is something new for every day of the week, but across all six days we will be giving you more pages, more local news, including more
in-depth analysis of issues affecting your lives, more of the local history you love so much and a great new bingo game offering prizes of £1,000 cash a week, as well as many other new competitions and offers. Click here for more details about the Bingo and the great competitions coming up in Friday Life.
We also have a host of new writers and columnists throughout the paper, including Olympic gold medal rower Andy Triggs Hodge, former Oxford United star Michael Duberry and BBC presenter Kat Orman.
The paper will have a cleaner, more modern look, with even the much-loved but outdated 1980s masthead replaced.
In addition, we have expanded coverage of areas like sport and local history, or added entirely new sections, each day.

  • MONDAY: Sports coverage has been increased to bring you more weekend action and reaction.  John Chipperfield’s popular weekly Memory Lane section has doubled in size in response to reader demand.
  • TUESDAY: Our new community news section will bring truly local news from your area each week and from September we will be running an eight-page schools section.
  • WEDNESDAY: Sport takes centre stage, with our new local supplement, SportsLife, featuring local cricket, bowls, Aunt Sally and more each week.
  • THURSDAY: Our popular entertainments section, the Guide, is given extra space and a new look to bring you more music, theatre, arts, cinema and eating out coverage each week. We will also have four pages of business and jobs news in a new slot.
  • FRIDAY: We launch a fabulous new lifestyle section, Friday Life, focussing on the things that matter to you; health, wealth, hobbies, family and travel are just some of the topics. We have signed up a host of great writers to inform, entertain and amuse you.
  • SATURDAY: There will be more of a ‘weekend’ feel to this edition, with the focus on looking back at the past week and forward to the one ahead. Our new ‘Saturday Smiles’ section will bring you pure good news, about fundraising, individual success stories and the wonderful things people do, week in week out, to help themselves and their communities.

So stick with us, we’re sure it will be worth your while. And please let us have your feedback – positive and negative - on the changes.


You helped shape the new look Oxford Mail

OUR research drew a large and enthusiastic response. The findings were many and varied. The main points were:

  • There was a general view that the Oxford Mail is a highly professional newspaper which over the years has become ‘punchier, less trivial and better presented’.
  • Many readers said they expected the Oxford Mail to stand up for them, hold those in authority to account and scrutinise and challenge decisions which affect their lives. ‘We need a champion’, said one.
  • They did not feel the paper has any party political bias.
  • A significant number of people, mainly men, bought the paper specifically for sport, particularly Oxford United coverage.
  • Readers’ overwhelming priorities were local news, events and leisure, readers’ letters (‘I always go there first’), courts coverage, sport and local history (‘I love Memory Lane features and you should do more).
  • Readers said they found it easy to communicate with the paper and that it generally listened and responded.
  • Competitions and offers were popular, as were TV listings, as many people do not buy another newspaper, local or national.
  • Photography was frequently mentioned as being of good quality and to a high standard.
  • Breaking stories do not always get into the paper quickly enough.
  • Some women readers said sport was too dominant and there should be more of interest to them.
  • More notice needs to be given of forthcoming events.
  • More specific sections could be added, or existing ones expanded, like business, local history, finance and consumer.
  • The paper could open up to more ‘voices’, including faith groups, minorities, students and children.