The Times paywall has been in full flow for almost a month now and analytics sites have gathered lots of data to see how the experiment for paid content has fared.
Experian Hitwise, a web metrics company, showed that two thirds of The Times and Sunday Times’ web traffic had disappeared since the mandatory paywall went up in June. Strategists at The Times did expect to lose 90% of its readership so keeping a third of its readers was actually an achievement. They wanted a group of dedicated, paying readers who were loyal to their brand rather than a mass of passers-by.
Beehive City concluded 150,000 users registered during the free subscription period, this also includes subscribers paying £1 for a 30 day trial period – how many people would be willing to pay the full subscription price (£2 weekly) once their trial period is over? 15,000 according to Beehive. And this is what The Times wanted; a small group of loyal readers willing to pay for content.
It’s difficult to tell so early on whether The Times’s paywall has been successful or not but it’s quite easy to see the majority are not willing to pay for online content. Although I think paying for content isn’t an unfair idea, it’s too difficult to produce a paywall, like The Times have done, in the day and age of social media and news sharing.
There are other ways to generate money from the digital industry, a perfect example would be The Times iPad application. At £9.99 for 30 days, it is more expensive than the online subscription but still attracting around 12,500 users. It’s easy to see that app buyers using their iPads, kindles and smart phones are the key people to target in generating money for digital subscriptions. I love apps and use the Guardian app frequently – a one off payment of £1.99 and you have a clean, cleverly-designed mini newspaper full of up-to-date content. I’d be willing to pay a monthly price (no more than £4) for this app as it’s handy when I’m on the go and want a read of something. It seems people would rather pay for an app, or read online content with targeted advertising than be forced into reaching out for their credit cards to subscribe for content. I think there is a future for online news casting but it has to be tailored to the new market – the web has evolved into a news sharing community and paid content needs to fit in with this.
Our business development executive, Matthew Simpson, shares his view on paid content (and Rupert Murdoch):
“I have made a conscious decision not to read any newspapers unless one is lying around in the local take-away, let alone pay online. I’d rather be boiled in oil than pay Rupert Murdoch more money – it still sticks in my throat that I have Sky. In fact, if it wasn’t for my family I wouldn’t have a TV as I hate traditional mainstream media. This is ironic since I have spent most of my working life selling it. The only form of media I champion is the internet because it’s ‘free’ so in answer to your original question, no I wouldn’t pay anything to read the ramblings of some middle class journalist who’s probably being bullied by his/her editor and doesn’t like his/her job anyway. “
And our MD, Lee Turner sums up this article perfectly:
“Good idea in theory but unfortunately the internet has built the “free reader”, thus meaning people will be unwilling to pay for content as they can get it elsewhere for free. However, as more publications introduce this business model, the more likely it is to work.”