July 20, 2010
New Paywall at the Times of London Shows Steep Decline in Online Viewers
Rupert Murdoch instituted a paywall at the Times Online (London) web site on June 15th. He has also blocked search engines from listing stories from the Times. Anyone connecting to the site is referred to a sign-up page requiring a £1 subscription payment to proceed. Most analysts expected a drop in casual viewers, and the numbers don't disappoint the disappointers. GigaOm claims a drop in online readership by about 65%. The Guardian claims numbers of 90%, a bit more brutal. GigaOm suggests that the Times is comfortable with the drop as it is likely meant to shore up the print side of the business by making it easier fo readers to get the news that way. I remember back in the day when a database called Westlaw started competing with Lexis. West put up case summaries and headnotes, expecting subscribers to look up the case in the National Reporter System printed volumes. Things have changed a bit on Westlaw since then. The database is not ad supported, but the idea of limiting online access to preserve reliance on print has not gone away.
The Guardian (still free and a great paper) is reporting that the Times had 15% of UK online newspaper traffic in February of this year. That number is estimated to have fallen to 1.06% of traffic. There are other comparative figures in the story. But as GigaOm points out, the strategy of protecting the print sales is containment, and not very forward looking. The strategy also assumes that Murdoch will settle for making money from committed Times readers and not worry about the "freeloaders." The problem with this mentality is that sooner or later, people will discover free alternatives to the same news and get more up to date versions of stories than in the morning paper. Contrast the Wall Street Journal, running behind a partial paywall and is apparently profitable from combined operations. The Journal, however, focuses on financial information and is a market news darling. The Times is a venerable British institution, but is it that unique as a news outlet? The managers are hoping that with its cachet it is. Let the market work its magic. I'm sure Rupert Murdoch wouldn't have it any other way. [MG]
Limiting online access to news in order to "make it easier" for print subscribers?
That's not even insane troll logic.
Posted by: Jill Smith | Jul 20, 2010 11:55:09 AM