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Sheldon Adelson's free daily, Yisrael Hayom ("Israel Today"), will increase the number of pages it puts out every morning by 50% after the Passover holidays, according to a source inside the paper. The American billionaire's entry into the Israeli newspaper market currently prints 32 pages a day, and will expand to 48.

The reason is a growth in advertising space sold, much of which comes from advertisers leaving Maariv. One of the main reasons for this is Yisrael Hayom's success in the latest TGI survey published at the end of January. The survey showed the paper reached a 15% exposure in the second half of 2007.

At the same time, Maariv is experiencing a serious and continuing drop in its advertising space sold - and revenues. Maariv still sells many more inches than Yisrael Hayom, but it also charges much more, too. The freebie charges NIS 15,000-25,000 per ad page, while Maariv gets NIS 25,000-40,000 for a full page in the news section on a weekday, according to the Yisrael Hayom source

The source said that in addition, Yisrael Hayom is now signing customers and advertisers to yearly agreements which are not only cheaper than Maariv's, but also provide much more value. Maariv's exposure figures are dropping according to the recent TGI survey, from 17% on average for 2007 to only 11.5% in January.

Maariv responded: "At the same time that we are improving the newspaper's content, the average price per [advertising] inch increased by 25%, which in the short term brings about a decline in the number of inches, but to a higher profit margin. We believe that in the medium and long term the updated newspaper will dramatically increase its number of inches."

Yisrael Hayom confirmed the reports.