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How Much Money Could The Times’ Paywall Bring In?

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For all the scepticism about The Timeses’ paywalls, one must properly define what “success” would be for the project. Murdoch is not trying to re-invent all of web culture, and the papers know that their audience will be decimated. This is about living within their means, courting their core existing readerships to stem big losses

So exactly how much money could the strategy bring in?

Our Times poll last month probably gives the best template we have for indication, since we asked readers themselves…

Their answers can be mapped against the last audience figure Times Online disclosed of 20,418,256 unique browsers per month (ABCe: February 2010).

First, since The Times is effectively blocking search engines from stories, let’s focus only on direct visitors, which account for 31 percent of most UK newspaper sites’ traffic, according to the Newspaper Marketing Agency. This reduces the audience to 6,329,659 a month.

So let’s see how things might pan out behind the wall…

Likelihood % of sample = Unique monthly browsers Assumption Monthly revenue

Extremely likely to pay



paying £2pw each week


Very likely to pay



paying £2pw once a month


Fairly likely to pay



paying £1/day twice a mth


Somewhat likely to pay



paying £1/day once a mth



That would make Times Newspapers £3.6 million per month or £43.29 million a year — nearly a tenth of the publisher’s 2008/09 income, and enough to halve its annual loss of £87.7 million.

This would make The Times and Sunday Times amongst the world’s most successful paid news sites – perhaps more so than, whose approximately 126,000 subscribers, paying up to £5.49 a week, we estimate make FT Group £35.9 million a year.

But, with the best will in the world, it’s hard to imagine things happening this way.

On these figures, the group of four percent (253,186) which declares itself extremely likely to pay is double even’s subscriber base. And that’s without considering other readers who may pay less frequently, the total for which would put it ahead even of’s million-plus subscription customers.

On this logic, The Times would also be comparing favourably with TimesSelect, the premium programme The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) shut in 2007, saying it earned $10 million after two years.

Whatever; even assuming a half or quarter of this estimation, Times Newspapers will have brought in something to offset its losses. It’s that on which the publisher will eventually have to be judged.

5 Responses to “How Much Money Could The Times’ Paywall Bring In?”

  1. Anonymous

    A vicious circle…if readership goes down then advertisers are less inclined to advertise with The Times so this will further reduce online advertising revenues…we will see in 12 months what the position is…

  2. Joanna Pieters

    There’s also going to be a revenue loss from advertising: it’s a rare advertiser who wouldn’t equate fewer eyeballs to a lower rate, and click-throughs or other responses will almost certainly fall. And there will be plenty of other, smaller revenue streams affected in positive and negative ways: data-gathering opportunities, IT/server costs, affiliates; and so on.

    No doubt they’ve done their own research and their sums and forecast it will be worthwhile. But that could mean all manner of things for Murdoch at the moment, even if it’s simply trying a new model which could drive fundamental change. Murdoch is clever enough to know that if you don’t take risks, you can’t win.

  3. peter hobday

    This survey is silly. You have the maths all wrong (you don’t multiply weekly revenue by four to get monthly revenue. That would only work if there were 48 weeks in the year).

    But more importantly, you cannot forecast what people will pay for something simply by asking them. It’s a pointless waste of time. You have to run a test. Does anyone in know anything about direct marketing? Well ask them about it. Go and find their office. They are probably a bunch of really nice guys …

  4. Richard

    You are assuming that giving the paper away for free on the internet does not affect the print circulation. If it encourages even a relatively few people to buy the paper for content they would have otherwise read on the net, then you need to add that in as a benefit.