High cost of `Times' price cut

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The Independent Online
The Times newspapers yesterday cancelled a cut-price subscription offer they had been advertising the previous day, provoking speculation that executives feared it could lose substantial sums.

The offer, which has been made in advertisements in both the Times and its Sunday sister, claimed the papers would "match any other subscription offer you receive from any other national newspaper".

The initiative appeared to be a clear attempt to retain readers following an offer by Telegraph newspapers. In direct mailshots they have been offering all seven Telegraph papers from Monday to Sunday for pounds 1.

The Telegraph mailshot, which demands readers pre-pay 12, 24, 36 or 52 weeks in advance, said customers could save pounds 2.40 a week. But when Telegraph readers responded yesterday to the Times newspapers' advert promising to match other subscription offers they were told it had been cancelled. "I'm afraid it is closed," a News International operator said. "We were told this morning it had finished and there was nothing we could do about it."

Yesterday Jane Reed, director of corporate affairs at News International, acknowledged the offer had been suddenly closed, saying: "There is no reason, when one makes a decision, that it shouldn't be made quickly. The subscription offer was designed to cover the summer of sport, and now we're going into an extremely strong autumn period and we still feel we are giving the best value ever on 10p and 40p cover prices. We felt it was the best thing to do."

The war for subscriptions is the latest round in the battle for circulation which is dominating the gently declining British newspaper market. The Times is at present heavily promoting its Monday paper, at 10p.

It was also News International which led the recent all-out newspaper price war which rocked the British market and resulted in prices being slashed across the board.