Lachlan Murdoch: N.Y. Post-er boy

Paper's weekly circulation up 42% since price slash

NEW YORK — To hear New York Post publisher and News Corp. heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch tell it, the tabloid’s recent success is due to two things: the $250 million color printing press that rolls out vivid shots of Britney’s midriff and a weasel-headed Jacques Chirac and “editorial initiatives” — namely the plucking of brassy Post editor in chief Col Allan from the Sydney Telegraph in 2001.

Murdoch fils, who is 31, is less verbose about the price slash the Post underwent three years ago, from 50 cents to 25 cents.

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The cut was intended to be temporary, but a copy of the Post today will still only put you out a quarter.

“The price is still temporary,” Murdoch says. “I’ll move it up, but not in the short-term.”

Not before the discount stops doing its magic, he might have said.

Between March 31, 2000 — six months before the change went into effect — and March 31 of this year, weekly circulation has spiked 42% to 620,080, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

At Post rival the New York Daily News, owned by Mort Zuckerman, circulation rose less than 1% for the same period to 737,030.

News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch claims that the circulation gap between the duelling tabs is even narrower than the ABC numbers suggest. “We’re almost at parity,” he said. “And when we get to parity, we’re going to spurt ahead!”

For a paper that has historically been profit-challenged and that was once temporarily lost to its chairman because of cross-ownership restrictions, these numbers are particularly rosy.

And the Post being the Post, there has been little in the way of modesty about announcing it: “No Contest: We’re the Fastest Growing Paper in U.S.,” read a May 2002 headline.

Post headlines, however, do not trumpet the fact that even with soaring newsstand sales, it is still estimated to be losing $10 million a year, and its advertising is one-third that of the Daily News.

“We’re losing too much,” Murdoch admits, adding that, even so, ad rates are up and he expects to break even in two years.

In the meantime, the Post is extending its reach. Since spring, the tab has been available in Los Angeles. Even West Coasters need their Page Six.