Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paywall Success For The Times ?

If reports from The Guardian are to be believed, The Times' paywall experiment has been an astounding success. I remain somewhat cynical of the figures, provided by Experian Hitwise, however.

According to these stats a third of visitors to Timesonline have now registered and pay for access. Before implementing any kind of registration, the current sites' predecessor, timesonline.com had around 20m monthly viewers (1.22m daily), with a very popular following in the US.

If a third of these daily viewers are now paying £2 a week (it was much less for the introductory month), then that's around£3m (the cost for the iPad version is lower at £9 a month).

Better still for News International is that a 500,000 plus daily audience, provided it is largely geo-focused, remains monetizable from advertising. Indeed, the rates are likely to be higher since these are no 'opt in' users and paying users tend to make greater use of paid for sites.

So, they should manage another £2m a month in advertising I'd reckon.

A £60m a year online business isn't to be sniffed at, but I remain a sceptic.

First of all, I don't believe the figures. The Times now no longer appears in indexes and blocks attempts to measure its performance and has also changed its URLs, so like for like comparison is difficult, but Alexa seems to indicate a falling off of 80% in traffic and this may be very much lower for registered users.

Then there is the rising cost of subscription after the initial month. I suspect the iPad app will do well, although I think an even lower price point might work better. I've experienced great resistance on pricing about the £5 point for online media payment.

Overall, though, I suspect that there will be some relief within Murdoch's empire at the initial feedback.