Cheap 'Telegraph' sales up by only 6%: Newspaper price war: 'Times' sees 15% increase - Latest News International cut is likely to be investigated

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The Independent Online
THE Times's 10p price cut yesterday, taking it down to 20p - the same as its stablemate the Sun - put its sales up by 15 per cent over the previous Friday, according to industry estimates. The move appears to have spiked the guns of Daily Telegraph, which prompted the latest skirmish in the broadsheet war by cutting its price from 48p to 30p on Thursday.

The Telegraph rose only 6 per cent on the day, with an estimated sale of 991,000. The estimated Times sale was 572,000. The Independent, at 257,000, was down 2.3 per cent on the previous Friday.

Stephen Grabiner, managing director of the Telegraph, said last night that he was not dismayed by the figures and confirmed that the company was not contemplating a further cut. 'We had always assumed that (Rupert) Murdoch would respond,' he said. He believes that the paper can remain profitable at 30p, whereas the Times price cut is being subsidised by the News International group to the tune of an estimated pounds 40m.

The Telegraph was prompted to cut its price because research showed that its cheap travel and other promotions, costing many of millions of pounds, were persuading people to buy the paper but not to read it. Latest figures show that its average circulation in the last six months fell by only 1.6 per cent compared with last year, despite the Times price cut - but its readership was down by 8.2 per cent.

This suggests that people were buying the paper simply to collect coupons for cut-price holidays, then throwing it away. Mr Grabiner, while conceding the fall in readership, does not admit that people were discarding it unread, but says they were not passing it on to others as they used to - presumably because the others had bought the Times. The Telegraph has now decided to abandon all such promotions.

Other broadsheet newspapers, and the two main middlebrow tabloids that spill into their market, are still deciding how to respond. Bert Hardy, managing director of Associated Newspapers, which publishes the Daily Mail, said the paper would remain at 32p until it saw how the Telegraph/Times war would affect the market. Some weeks ago the Mail dipped its toe into the water by cutting its price to 20p in Northern Ireland, resulting in a circulation gain of 20 per cent. The Daily Express has given no indication of its intentions.

Peter Stothard, editor of the Times, said yesterday that letters he had received from new readers indicated that they had nearly all come from the Telegraph. Max Hastings, editor of the Telegraph, said: 'It's like day three of the Somme. But you couldn't have expected us to sit here like a rabbit in car headlights, waiting for News International to run us down.'