The Times website loses another 120,000 readers to paywall

Media blog Beehive is reporting ComScore figures on further falls in web traffic at The Times with readership down by another 120,000 in the last month.

It says unique users fell again in its second month behind a paywall dropping 7.6% in August to 1.459 million from July’s 1.579 million.

I wrote last week about how the paywall could be hurting the paper’s once thriving blog community as its bloggers are removed from the wider social web (Has the Times paywall killed its blogs?).

The report says more worryingly that the total time spent on the site also is also down. The fall there was steeper still (falling 16%) as overall page views dipped two million from 9 million in July to 7 million in August. That fall in time spent on the site is another indication that some people at least are getting to the homepage and going no further as they are non subscribers. I’ve done that half a dozen times or more in the last month just to check what is on its homepage.

I’m sure that this is a pattern repeated by others with none of us getting to read any content.

How much to read into these figures? Something but not everything. Last month was August with a lot of people off on their summer hols, but as that 7.6% is much larger than you would expect even for the month of August.

While ComScore’s figures say The Guardian and the Telegraph reported falls, the ABCe for August says different. It has The up 1.1%, the up 3.9% and the Telegraph was up 3.56%. Those are significant.

That indicates the traffic that once freely roamed the Times is going elsewhere as predicted. News International has still not released any data indicating how many paying subscribers it has racked up.

It is unlikely that it will release any data at least until its ad campaign launched just over a week ago, and starring Rupert Everett, has run its course in the hope that this boosts subscriber numbers.

Next month it becomes even more interesting as the News of the World disappears behind its paywall with critics predicting that the tabloid will find it even harder to rack up subscribers than its upmarket sister title.

  • Dave R

    1.5m people? Even if they’re only paying £1 per day each month, that’s £1.5m News International weren’t getting beforehand each month. If they’re paying £2 per week or anything like that, then the revenues are proving that people ARE actually willing to pay for The Times’s news coverage.

  • Tom Planer

    Interesting article, but I would be reulectant to use Comscore figures for the Times and ABCe figures for everyone else. It works to illustrate the point but is not a fair comparison, especially considering y9ou admit the Comscore data showed a drop for Guardian & Telegraph.

  • @gordonmacmillan

    Fair point @Tom, but at the moment that’s all there is. So it is speculation and far from perfect.

  • Richard

    Gordon – also you base your argument against the paywall on the ComScore results. But ComScore has everyone down in August – yet you then you ABCe who have competitors on the up, and say it is significant.

    It’s only significant if you’re comparing apples and apples – and you’re not.

    You’re comparing stats that support your own opinion, which devalues the whole article.

  • Charles

    Interesting update.

    Dave R – I think you’d need to revise that estimate to factor in the % of UVs that actually click through past the homepage – a large chunk of the 1.5m will hit the homepage and bounce straight off as they are not subscribers (though they can’t be stripped out of the traffic numbers, this is indicated by the reduction in average time on site and total page views).

    Let’s suppose that only 10% subscribe, it would mean they are only making revenues of £150k each month from it. Add in their net profit % and that’s going to be about £15-30k each month – about enough for Murdoch’s boat repairs and maintenance.

  • Jon W

    BeehiveCity a good media blog/news site suggests that the number of online subscribers is 15,000 and IPAD subscribers are quoted at 12,500. Predictably dreadful numbers.
    The 1.459 uniques appear that they may come from international readers and those that look through archive stories (still free access) aswell as some who reach the paywall through search.
    Aslong as there is a BBC media owners will rarely be successful in charging users for content. The only opportunity is where your content is so niche that nobody else publishes it.
    Good luck NOTW!

  • Kagem Tibaijuka

    15k online subs is not dreadful if they are paying £2 per week.

    Rupes should have just done a yearly subscription of say £70 or something like that to match the print edition and calculated subscribers that way.

    There is the potential of so much churn with weekly passes.

    120K freeloaders gone is not that big of a deal, IMO.

    I’d love to create a paid content product if I had the cashflow. Good on them.

  • Jon W

    Imagine the scene…. News International senior management looking all serious and furrowed discussing the paywall content strategy in Sept 2009…’We aim that within 3 months to have 15,000 paying subscribers…’
    I wonder what the Chief Exec would have said to that.

  • Charles

    @ Jon W – he’d have felt like a “crazy fool”, that’s for sure.

  • The Dude

    Just been onto Comscore. UU’s are totally irrelevant in this case. 90% of traffic comes from other Newspapers and Articles – 90% of 1.6 miilion leaves 160,000 UU’s who get their on their own or through Google say. Of this 160,000 at best 20% will be paying.
    20% of 160K is 32,000 Users at the very very best are paying £8 a month is not much revenue for such a massive (Once) player.
    They are obviously in this for the long haul and are trying to force everone else to do the same.

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  • Rupert Murdoch ia a genius after all

    So they lost around 8% of their readership. No biggie, you want to look at their increase in revenue. This time last year, nobody at all paid for viewing the timesonline, now everyone who wants to is paying, and there are substantial numbers.
    Plus, the paying readers are likely to be much more loyal to The Times than readers of the Guardian online are, simply because people value something more if they have paid for it than if they get something for free. Rupert Murdoch has cultivated a much higher-quality readership, which in turn will be more valuable to advertisers.

  • pat pending

    pity as I miss the quality journalism of the Times. I won’t pay as as the cost of providing the web site is very low due to re-use of writing (blogs excepted) and no hugely costly physical manufacture, distribution and resale required. It’s an insult to the reader’s intelligence. Make the price fair and I would buy, if not I will continue to exercise my customer sovereignty.

    This is just another wheeze from Murdoch to scam more money from us (vis price of S.Times going up by 10%) and Times price at £1, when 50p less than 5 years ago.

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