London Times Web Traffic Falls 66% After Paywall Goes Up
It’s only been 17 days since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation put the website for the Times Of London behind a paywall, and traffic has already dropped like a rock:
According to data from Experian Hitwise, which charts Internet traffic, visits to The Times of London and The Sunday Times’ Websites have dropped by 66% since parent company News International put those sites behind paywalls on July 2.
Some media pundits had predicted the site would lose as much as 90% of its traffic.
The drop might have been lessened by an introductory charge of £1 for the first 30 days. News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch wants to charge £1 per day for access to the site, or £2 for a week.
It will be interesting to see what happens to traffic after the introductory price ends. If this initial period is any indication, it won’t be good.
What makes this news seem more grim, though, is the fact that it’s part of a trend that started when the paywall was announced, but before it went into effect:
In the five-week period before the paywall was erected, traffic fell 58% between May 22 and June 26, according to E&P’s former sister site, Mediaweek.
Rupert Murdoch thinks that he can make pay-for-use news viable on the Internet, and companies like The New York Times are watching him to see if he succeeds. So far, it’s not looking good.
Update: The Guardian is out with a report this morning that makes the situation seem even more grim:
Unregistered users of thetimes.co.uk are now “bounced” to a Times+ membership page where they have to register if they want to view Times content. Data from the web metrics company Experian Hitwise shows that only 25.6% of such users sign up and proceed to a Times web page; based on custom categories (created at the Guardian) that have been used to track the performance of major UK press titles online, visits to the Times site have fallen to 4.16% of UK quality press online traffic, compared with 15% before it made registration compulsory on 15 June.
These figures can then be used to model how this may impact on the number of users hitting the new Times site. Based on the last available ABCe data for Times Online readership (from February 2010), which showed that it had 1.2 million daily unique users, and Hitwise’s figures showing it had 15% of UK online newspaper traffic, that means a total of 332,800 daily users trying to visit the Times site.
If none of the people visiting the site have already registered, the one-on-four dropout rate means that traffic actually going from the registration site to the Times site is just 84,800, or 1.06% of total UK newspaper traffic – a 93% fall compared with May.
However, some have registered: Dan Sabbagh, formerly the media correspondent for the Times, suggests that about 150,000 users registered for access to the Times and Sunday Times while they were free, with 15,000 apparently agreeing to pay money.
There are approximately 150,000 Times print subscribers who get a free online registration, but if the estimated 15,000 daily online users who agreed to pay opt for the £2 a week deal, the paywall will generate £120,000 a month – £1.4m a year.
I’m willing to guess that the site was generating more than that in advertising revenue when access was free.