The weekend saw a flurry of figures about the reader reaction to the introduction of the Times paywall.
Quoting figures from Hitwise, The Observer claimed The Times lost two thirds of its online audience with the introduction of the paywall – not bad when thoughts coming from News International beforehand were that it could lose up to 90 per cent.
“The data from Experian Hitwise, which monitors internet traffic, showed that in the week following the introduction of the paywall on 2 July, visits to the Times site fell to 33% of its pre-registration level.”
(One significant difference, The Observer story is relying on Hitwise figures on ‘visits’ to the website where as the 90 per cent drop figure was referring to ‘visitors’.)
The FT has the same story. Like the Observer it makes the point that the significant fall in visitor numbers occurred in the weeks before the paywall went up, when News International launched new websites for The Times and the Sunday Times and asked readers to register for use.
“Traffic fell 58 per cent in the five weeks between May 22 and June 26, with The Times’ share of UK news and media web traffic falling from 4.37 per cent to 1.83 per cent.
“In the week after charging began on July 2, the rate of decline moderated, although World Cup news might have boosted web visits. Between July 3 and July 10, visits fell to 33 per cent of The Times’ pre-registration level, or 1.43 per cent of the market.”
But those figures are meaningless, says former Times media editor Dan Sabbagh who claims (without any official verification) that 150,000 readers registered for the free trail period and just 15,000 had agreed to pay.
If that’s right it’s got to be considered a huge disappointment, especially as readers were made an introductory offer of a month’s access for just £1.