News International has surprised the newspaper market with its decision
to re-ignite the price war by slashing the cost of the Times on Monday
to 10p throughout summer, on the back of an enlarged sports section.
The move is linked to a levelling out of the Times’s circulation rise
and increased competition for readers with a strong interest in sport.
One immediate effect of the price cut was that the Daily Telegraph
delayed its new branding campaign by several days to 5 June.
The Independent responded boldly on Monday (3 June) by offering its
readers coupons to get the Times free ‘in the spirit of generosity’. The
paper also carried a leader article that accused Rupert Murdoch of
Toby Constantine, marketing director of Times Newspapers, commented:
‘This move backs a belief that our Monday sports section is better than
the Telegraph’s. The Times on Monday now has the biggest and most
comprehensive sports section. We wanted to give people the chance to
The Times abandoned its price-cutting strategy in September. The price
war helped it to increase its circulation from around 360,000 to
650,000, while also hitting profits at both the Telegraph and the
Industry sources suggested the Telegraph was now likely to attack the
Matthew Howells, deputy promotions director at the Telegraph group,
would not be drawn on the issue, but said: ‘The circulation rise of the
Times has halted and if you take bulk sales out of its figures then its
year-on-year sales are down.’
Bill Kinlay, media director at the Network, said that the Times’s sports
initiative was likely to be the first of a number of similar moves in
preparation for the launch of the sports daily, Sport First, in August.
Amanda Platell, managing director of the Independent, said the paper had
no intention of competing head-to-head with the Times on sport. ‘People
are looking for quality, not volume of writing,’ she claimed.