Before The Paywall, Murdoch Stops Disclosing UK News Site Traffic

The Times' new website

With nearly a month to go before News International raises its first paywall in June, both Times Online and Sun Online have stopped publishing their user numbers through the *ABC* in the UK.

March monthly figures for UK newspaper sites were issued Thursday – but both Murdoch sites are absent.

*ABC* confirmed to paidContent:UK that it is still auditing the publisher’s traffic numbers – but it is keeping the figures private at News International’s request and, at present, publication is not due to resume next month.

This means it will be hard to see exactly how many readers Times Online will lose when it starts charging £1 a day and £2 a week starting June.

Times Online’s last published traffic was 20,418,256 unique browsers in February, an average 1,215,446 a day and an average 4,980,134 daily page impressions. A third of traffic was domestic, two thirds from overseas.

But Murdoch increasingly is going for bankable consumer income over online ads. He isn’t alone in deciding the quest for unique eyeballs, against which to sell ads, should not be the only game in town – but Mail Online and Guardian.co.uk recently renewed their belief that news sites with scale can still profit well from advertising. The new Times sites will also retain advertising.

If last year’s PCUK/Harris Interactive poll, which found that only five percent of people will pay to read their favourite newspaper online, is borne out, the forthcoming TheTimes.co.uk would find its readership dropping to 60,772 users a day.

In fact, it could be less than that since the current 24/7 Times Online is being separated in to the daily TheTimes.co.uk and a weekend SundayTimes.co.uk site. But it’s worth assuming that News International has done its own research on its own readers that draws a more favourable conclusion.

Editor James Harding said in March: “I think we will lose plenty of unique users, but we will grow the number of regular readers and, more important still, contributors to The Times. And I think we will attract a new kind of reader to The Times.”

And Times assistant editor Tom Whitwell said:

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