How Much Money Could The Times’ Paywall Bring In?

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

4%

253,186

paying £2pw each week

£2,025,488pm

Very likely to pay

2%

126,593

paying £2pw once a month

£253,186pm

Fairly likely to pay

4%

253,186

paying £1/day twice a mth

£506,372pm

Somewhat likely to pay

13%

822,855

paying £1/day once a mth

£822,855pm

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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 FT.com, 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 FT.com’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 WSJ.com’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.

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