Microsoft funds Times give-away

The Times will be given away free on Thursday (August 23) when for one day only it will more than double its print run to 1.5 million thanks to Microsoft, which is underwriting the estimated 300,000-plus cost.

Thursday’s edition of The Times will include a supplement to mark the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95 software. Along with the paper, it will be available free from newsagents and handed out at railway stations across the UK.

The promotion was devised by Mediastar managing director Bob Offen a year ago to mark the launch of Windows 95.

“By linking with The Times we were able to add an international dimension to the promotion,” he says.

The promotion offers The Times an unprecedented opportunity to encourage sampling by new readers, says Times editor Peter Stothard. He describes the initiative as “a landmark in newspaper publishing”.

Others are not so sure. Times journalists have privately voiced concern that the tie-up could be seen as compromising editorial integrity.

Rival newspapers interpret the move as an attempt to stem sales losses since the broadsheet increased its price from 20p to 25p last month (MW July 7).

“This marks a new low in The Times’ marketing activity,” says Telegraph marketing director David Pugh. “It is an indication of how its sales have suffered since its put up the price.” He estimates that sales of The Times have fallen by eight per cent since the price hike. Sales of The Telegraph have fallen by only two per cent since it increased its cover price by 5p.

The Times is launching an instant scratchcard promotion called Globe Trotter and offering prizes from 500 to 2,000.

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