All three papers have cut price
First unaudited figures show that at least the public likes the latest newspaper price war. The Daily Mirror was claiming around 200,000 extra sales on Monday and The Sun was coy but quietly jubilant when industry figures were said to reveal a 245,000 uplift on Monday and 200,000 on Tuesday.
But when is a war not a war? The Sun is in no doubt. It has declared war on the Daily Mirror, cutting its cost from 30p to 20p to match its rival.
Yet the Daily Mirror denies any such conflict. Its 12p price slash for readers is part of a long-term strategy to get the paper bought more often and by younger people, it says, and it is just not going to take The Sun on.
The Daily Star, its armour burnished by a 13 per cent sales rise year-on-year, is ready to take anybody on – inside the M25 at any rate – with a price of just 10p.
Trinity Mirror is putting £20m into its transformation of the Mirror into a more serious newspaper. The Sun has Rupert Murdoch’s apparently unlimited resources behind it and Richard Desmond’s pockets will bear at least a medium-term strain.
Those millions prove that it is not just the war of words into which it was threatening to develop this week.
Sun editor David Yelland has been outright belligerent. In a wake-up e-mail to his staff at the weekend he said: "Put very simply this is a full-scale declaration of war on our rivals. Our intention is also very simple. It is to take apart the Daily Mirror’s business and destroy it and the same goes for the Star.
"We will keep faith with price until these objectives are met. The investment by KRM [Murdoch] and LH [Les Hinton, News International executive chairman] in this is massive and we owe it to them to respond by producing superb papers. WE MUST SPARKLE.
"We have an opportunity now to stuff the Mirror and its management totally. They have made two massive, huge, gigantic miscalculations.
"First, they have repositioned their paper wrongly – it is now a dull product. And they have allowed the ego of their editor to dictate commercial quality. Who do these two-bit nobodies think they are?
"If you have Trinity Mirror shares, by the way, sell them now. They are FINISHED as a company. FINISHED!"
Mirror editor Piers Morgan, claiming a 12 per cent sales rise on Monday, said: "I sent Yelland’s memo round to all the staff and they laughed their heads off. The only person I’ve heard ranting like that recently was Sir Alex Ferguson."
Morgan insisted he had declared an end to war with The Sun some time ago. "We don’t care what they do. We have a plan of action prepared some three or four months ago of what we are going to do, when and where and how, and which doesn’t pay attention to what rivals are doing."
This time next year, he wants to be selling more Mirrors than he does now. "If Monday’s sale is anything to go by, we are definitely going to kill them."
With a near 8 per cent sales hike, Yelland said: "The net effect of the Mirror’s unbelievably foolish move is that it has increased the gap between the Mirror and the Sun substantially."
By Jean Morgan