Sales rise keeps The Times at 20p

News International will keep The Times’ cover price at 20p following strong circulation growth in January and a penny increase in the Sun’s price this week, say industry analysts and press buyers.

The Times defied expectations that its post-price cut circulation had peaked at 614,477 in October by increasing its circulation last month to 631,449.

The January figure was boosted by a poster campaign and a number of promotions in the newspaper offering theatre tickets and restaurant vouchers for 20p. NI is continuing to add value to the product with the launch of a finance supplement in this week’s Saturday edition.

The increase in the Sun’s price from 22p to 23p is believed to be worth about ú12.8m in revenues to NI. This will help to offset the 40 per cent paper price increases Rupert Murdoch referred to at the Davos Economic summit on January 30.

The Times would have to increase its price by 6.5p to raise the equivalent revenue for NI. By remaining at 20p it keeps the pressure on The Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

The Sun remains 4p cheaper than the Daily Mirror. It had a January ABC of 4.1 million, compared to the Mirror’s 2.4 million.

“The Times’ record circulation figure means Murdoch is going to keep its price as a weapon. You can’t just stop a price war and say we’re all going home,” says Kleinwort Benson media analyst Derek Terrington.

Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO head of press Katherine Almond agrees. “The promotions and ad campaigns in January were all so tied to the 20p price that NI would struggle to put the price up in the near future,” she says.

* The Times has booked TV airtime on Thursday and Friday this week to advertise a secret promotion for the Saturday edition.

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