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Summary:

There are plenty of outside guesstimates at how successful The Times and Sunday Times new websites may be when they start charging this mont…

TheTimes.co.uk homepage, May 17

There are plenty of outside guesstimates at how successful The Times and Sunday Times new websites may be when they start charging this month. So we decided to ask the people who will really hold the answer – Times Online readers themselves

In an exclusive new poll for paidContent:UK, Harris Interactive found a combined 23 percent of Times Online users rated themselves variations of “likely” to pay. Within that, four percent were extremely likely, two percent very likely, four percent fairly likely and 13 percent somewhat likely. 76 percent said they were not at all likely to pay.

When readers are presented with a more nuanced series of options like this, rather than the binary “Will you pay or not?” of most surveys, the results are more encouraging than the developed conventional wisdom, which even News International seems to expect, that perhaps more than 90 percent of readers will be lost…

Our clickable infographic shows the data…

Times Paywall
Times Paywall

Our Conclusions

Leaving aside those readers who are virtually certain of paying (which, at four percent, is in the accepted premium subscription ratio), there is a significant middle tier, equivalent to nearly a fifth of Times Online readers, which may be persuadable to at least some occasional form of payment.

This is great news for Times Newspapers, giving it plenty of room to try to convert a larger minority of susceptible readers than previously thought – people who, right now, aren’t subscribing for sure, but who may be open to the idea.

More good news: the favoured pricing mechanism for those readers who say they are likely to pay is not the lowest-value £1-a-day option, which we might expect some folk might concede to say they’ll pay only occasionally – it’s the £2-a-week option, which, because it auto-renews every seven days, would give The Times some attractive recurring revenue, like Spotify and BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) have.

But there’s still a great deal of uncertainty, with nearly as many people saying they’re not sure which way to pay. And let’s not forget that the vast majority of respondents still say they’re unlikely to pay up.

Of those, 70 percent say they will switch to another free site, 15 percent say they will continue reading The Times’ and Sunday Times’ free headlines homepage alone, and eight percent say they will buy the paper instead.

Methodology: Harris Interactive surveyed 2,045 UK adults aged 16+ online from June 1 to 9.

Questions for Times Online were asked of those amongst the sample who said visited Times Online most days (four percent), at least once a week (six percent), at least once a month (six percent) and less than once a month (11 percent), totaling 584 Times Online readers.

Figures for age, gender, education, region and internet usage were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents

  1. Terry Purvis Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    The results of a survey are only ever the results of a survey and so attempting to use them as some sort of factual declaration of consumer intent in this context is a pointless exercise.

  2. Robert Andrews Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    Indeed, it’s only as a survey that I’ve presented it.

  3. I shall be reading the Guardian or BBC News from now on. It does not bother me these 2 minute “exclusive” news stories.

  4. janfromgeelongaustralia Thursday, June 17, 2010

    As a retiree on a limited income in Australia, I won’t be subscribing to The Times. I like to read what takes my fancy with online news sites, not to be locked into some sort of paid for set pattern, like pay tv, which I don’t use either.

    I’ll really miss the content, but there are many other sites where I can find something similar.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how The Times’ change of direction pans out,

    Jan from Geelong, Australia

  5. Jamie Lickfold Thursday, June 17, 2010

    This is very skewed. There is only one answer for ‘no I won’t be paying’ and four possible answers for ‘yes I will’

    Given that there is no answer for ‘probably not’ (which could be more or less mapped to ‘somewhat likely’) and no answer for ‘i don’t know/undecided’ (mappable to fairly likely) the conclusion I would draw is that about 6% might pay.

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