Times free offer helps rival sales

The Times/Microsoft give-away promotion may have backfired, according to research by The Daily Telegraph’s ad agency J Walter Thompson.

The Times was free from newsagents as part of the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95 campaign last Thursday.

The research involved filming buyers as they went into 20 shops in Manchester and London and selected their newspaper. Many of the people observed were interviewed afterwards.

JWT head of behavioural research Siamack Salari says the point-of-sale research shows that many non-Times buyers continued to buy their usual paper while picking up The Times as well.

But Salari says the most interesting finding was the large number of Times buyers who used their spare change to buy another paper.

“One respondent told us that he always buys The Times and flicks through The Independent. Because The Times was free, he bought The Independent with his spare change.”

He says the research shows there were hardly any switches from rival papers to The Times. It is also claimed that many of the newsagents, which gained 12p for each issue of The Times given away, dumped issues to claim the reward.

Daily Telegraph marketing director David Pugh says initial research shows that Telegraph sales increased by about 20,000, or two per cent, on the previous Thursday because of Times buyers purchasing the paper.

The Independent believes sales were lifted by between 0.5 per cent and two per cent on the day, for the whole market.

“It was a good news day and turned into a sampling operation for the whole broadsheet market, courtesy of the Times,” says a Guardian spokesperson.

The Times claims significant numbers of readers that sampled the free paper are still buying it. It adds that it doubled the paper’s circulation on the day.

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