Report Claims Only 15,000 Signed Up For The Times Paywall

from the enough-to-stay-in-business dept

Last week, we wrote about Michael Wolff’s report that the new paywall for Rupert Murdoch’s The Times in London wasn’t doing so well. However, we wondered if we’d ever see actual numbers. While some publications have been analyzing the traffic drop, noting that it was “only” 2/3 of pre-registration traffic, as opposed to the 10% that some predicted, an anonymous reader has passed along a report from the site BeeHiveCity that claims to have the data saying that 15,000 people signed up for the paywall and another 12,500 paid for the iPad app. As the report notes, “this figure is considered disappointing.”

A further analysis of the data by the same site digs a bit deeper. It notes that the two newspapers (The Times and The Sunday Times) both lost a bunch of paper subscriptions in the last month as well. That could mean that the paywall folks are simply replacing the paper version. But, still, we’re talking about pretty small numbers. As the report notes, it doesn’t look like the online paywall subscribers even come close to replacing the paper circulation decline in terms of revenue — and (most importantly), the paper subscription declines seem like an ongoing deal. The number of new subscribers to the paywalled digital edition almost certainly won’t increase at the same rate. The first week is when the largest single segment was likely to subscribe. If that number only increases by a trickle (or… if it actually starts to decrease, once the cheaper “trial period” is up), the paywall may go down as a complete disaster.

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Comments on “Report Claims Only 15,000 Signed Up For The Times Paywall”

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20 Comments
Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Weird...

“http://gigaom.com/2010/07/19/ruperts-paywall-is-meant-to-keep-people-in-not-out/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OmMalik+%28GigaOM%29”

That GigaOM post refers to TechDirt as though it defended paywalls as a way to reduce churn and then comes up with a horribly misguided attempt at rationalizing paywalls as a way to keep paper subscriptions.

I’ve tried reading it 3 times and I still don’t know what the hell the author is trying to say….

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Weird...

That GigaOM post refers to TechDirt as though it defended paywalls as a way to reduce churn and then comes up with a horribly misguided attempt at rationalizing paywalls as a way to keep paper subscriptions.

He’s not saying that we “defended” paywalls. Just that we explained the thinking behind Newsday’s. And it’s true. Both this paywall and the Newsday paywall were about reducing churn to the paper subscribers. Basically, it gives them another “benefit” that they supposedly can’t get without the subscription.

It’s basically trying to milk a cash cow for a little longer, rather than planning for the future — which is the point Mathew is making in that post.

Bob says:

Re: Re: Disappointing?!

I agree 100%. I think anything over a thousand paywall subsribers is incredible. I think it’s a huge success for paywalls as I’d have bet on hundreds of subscribers, not thousands.

Of course, I’d have bet like $20, not a multi-million dollar industry. So it’s a little different when I lose.

Hopefully the additional funds can keep the “journalists” employed for another week or two each. Great job! If only one of those journalists could have been spared to research business models, maybe this whole fiasco could have been avoided.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Disappointing?!

Nah, 15,000 seems about right and roughly what I would have expected. The Times is something of a British institution, especially among the middle class City types who wouldn’t miss the subscription and still give credence to anything they say.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of these are subscriptions bought for a company rather than individuals, though I’m not sure if they’d be counted separately or not.

The trick now, of course, is that they’ve blocked all casual browsers and so they have to depend 100% on these subscriptions rather than a mix of them and less dedicated types. they will probably struggle to attract new readers, especially those who don’t read the physical paper and get their news largely from aggregators.

Krome says:

Seriously...

They should have taken Apple up on the offer of bringing digital papers to the iPad. People are used to the web being free, that’s a hard habit to shift.

If they had packaged the papers differently on the iPad, taking advantage of the opportunity to create a new experience for a new medium, and charged sensible prices – say £0.25 per issue, £1.50 for a week, £5 for a month – they would have gotten hugely more take-up. Instead they all decided to try the paywall approach… /facepalm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Seriously...

…charged sensible prices – say £0.25 per issue, £1.50 for a week, £5 for a month – they would have gotten hugely more take-up. Instead they all decided to try the paywall approach… /facepalm.

Huh? So you’re saying they should have gone with a paywall instead of a paywall? Talk about face-palm.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Seriously...

“People are used to the web being free, that’s a hard habit to shift.”

So how exactly would charging separately for a non-web format on a niche interface have shifted this habit? I know what you’re saying, but I’d say that the iPad and general web audiences are different audiences for this kind of usage and convincing iPad users to pay isn’t the same as convincing general web users.

As for the “web being free”, people are also used to radio being free, TV being free, books being free (libraries), water being free, etc. Yet, entire industries have grown up in each of those markets that charge people money for products and services in the same areas, and those are generally successful even with free competition.

I see no reason why internet content cannot be any different – the trick is to try and convince potential customers that there’s extra value in the paid content and services, not to block them from accessing those that already exist. Paywalls are doomed to failure for this reason – they remove value, not add it.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: The great swami

“I do believe I predicted 20k… I think one fella predicted 5. Mr. Penguin, you have the floor :)”

LOL … The penguin takes the floor …

Actually with out a break down of the numbers and how this is set up the numbers do not mean much. The big thing missing here is do the people currently subscribed to the dead tree version get free access and are they counted in these numbers. Are there vouchers that come with the paper?

? Readers registered during free trial period: 150,000.
? Paying subscribers: 15,000 (Sabbagh: “This figure, apparently, is considered disappointing”).
? iPad customers so far: 12,500 (how many are actually paying).
? 12% of Times Online’s pre-wall daily audience created an account during the first-month-free period, then a tenth of them have paid.
? 1 Pound for 1 day (one day pass)
? 1 Pound for 30 days then 2 Pounds a week.
? The Terms and conditions of use agreement seems like it is designed to cause you to fall into higher subscription price ranges.
? The “we will notify you four weeks in advance of a subscription price increase” is sneaky from a psyche perspective. It relys on peoples forgetfulness, and failure to look at their credit card statements.

Basically, the subscription model is set up in a way that trys to get you to subscribe for no or a low fee, and then slowly increases the price. This method hasn’t really ever worked historically. Unlike the WSJ, this paper wont be paid for by the company you work for, cant be written off as a business expense, doesnt make you money, and is not a targeted paper. Expect the numbers to tank seriously when the price increases.

Where did you bet 20,000 in the contest the contest, maybe I just am not seeing it. Do you really want a 3 month subscription to the times of London though? It seems like a waste at 2 pounds sterling a week.

vastrightwing (profile) says:

LOL

Just to make my point, I visited the Time.co.uk, clicked on an article and when the great paywall popped up, I left.

OK, here’s a plan that will work Robert. Charge people $1-3/mo for the print edition with a FREE online subscription included in the price. Then charge $9/mo. for an online only subscription. (Yes I know what you’re thinking).

Here’s the rub, print advertising will earn you more than online ads will. People will quickly figure that buying the print version is much cheaper than paying for the online version only. The tree huggers will still buy the online only version, so it’s a win win.

You get to keep the print advertising money and the online ad money. People will pay for real paper (after all, we all know that no one pays for news itself). You also will make a little money from the people who insist on paying for online only access. To encourage people to subscribe to your print edition, add something cool in the print edition you can’t do online. I’m not generous enough to tell you what that might be though.

Personally, I won’t buy a real news paper or pay for online access since there are plenty of ways to get news for free (it’s not really free, I do pay for an internet pipe after all). But this should work out better than what you have now.

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