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Japanese Newspapers

David Flath ()

ISER Discussion Paper from Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University

Abstract: In Japan, newspapers enjoy a special exemption from antimonopoly prohibitions against resale price maintenance (suppliers' stipulations that bar downstream firms from price discounting), but are each required to set uniform prices throughout Japan. In fact, the newspapers have rarely changed their subscription prices in recent years, and the three leading national dailies, together accounting for about half the total industry circulation, and thirteen other papers accounting for another one eighth of industry circulation, all have set exactly the same price (3,925 yen per month for combined morning-and-evening editions, and 3,007 yen per month for morning-only). The remaining local papers all set lower prices. The authorized resale price maintenance, and prohibition against prices that vary geographically, arguably have allowed collusive price increases, but by precisely how much it is difficult to judge. I here estimate that if the coordinated pricing of the leading national and local newspapers is inflating their prices by 340 yen per month (about a 10 percent increase in their prices), it entails economic waste of 86-billion yen ($1-billion) per year but is adding only around 5-billion yen per year to newspaper industry profit. The estimate is based on an econometric model of newspaper demand, estimated for 47 Japanese newspapers using March 2007 micro-data. The paper also estimates the demand and supply of newspaper advertising and a newspaper subscription price equation using 2007 cross-section data. The subscription pricing equation reflects the interdependence of demand between morning-only subscriptions and morning-and-evening subscriptions offered by the same newspaper.

Date: 2012-08
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