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Times’ Paid Model: The Unofficial Numbers Come In

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The Times’ paid model is just two weeks old but, still, a number of stats came through this weekend – none of them from the horse’s mouth…

First, the meat – some potentially significant first numbers on how successful the paper’s paid websites have been in their first two weeks. There’s no attribution for these, but the fact they’re reported by former Times media correspondent Dan Sabbagh might be some cause for validity…

— Readers registered during free trial period: 150,000.
Paying subscribers: 15,000 (Sabbagh: “This figure, apparently, is considered disappointing”).
— iPad customers so far: 12,500.

If true, this suggests that 12 percent of Times Online’s pre-wall daily audience created an account during the first-month-free period, then a tenth of them have paid.

The Times spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment over the weekend gave no comment, but we wouldn’t expect them to comment on such speculation.

The next data set, from Hitwise, got some confusing write-ups in weekend papers (, Observer), but the bottom line is…

The registration wall, despite being free for a month, resulted in site visits declining by 58 percent. By the time actual payments had been required for a week, visits were down by 67 percent, compared with the old days.

This won’t worry many at the paper, since the whole strategy is about courting fewer, more loyal users. And it’s a darn sight better than the 90 percent drop-off that many, including The Times’ editor, have braced for.

Ultimately, we have nothing from Times Newspapers to back any of this up — it likely won’t comment on the reported customer up-take and it stopped reporting its web traffic back in April.

The days are still so early; the new model is just two weeks old — traffic may fall further, but paying customers may get steadily added.

We would expect the paper to shout success, if it happens, from the rooftops in the next month or two.

10 Responses to “Times’ Paid Model: The Unofficial Numbers Come In”

  1. I won’t pay despite having read on line for years and being a former print copy reader when living in the UK. The Times is simply not good enough for me to pay for what I can get free from the BBC.

    It is way too expensive if you don’t live in the UK – you loose out on the credit card forex transaction for a start!

  2. Rich Tea

    Publishers need to learn a lesson of Mr Henry Ford that the cost charged for a service/product should be related only to the cost of production and should continuously reduce when any production cost-base falls.

    The Times should forget what they think the ‘value’ of their service is, they should forget about how much they think they can charge for it – what the market will bare. The only valid equation is; how little can they supply the service for?

    Look at iPhone Apps – when they cost pence people buy them and if they are any good many people buy them. That make a greater return than would be had if they just pitching a price at the pain threshold.

    I received a link to an article in the Times which interested me considerably. Was I tempted to register? Not for one millisecond. The web is full to bursting with good meaningful content to consume and there is not enough time to absorb one fraction it.

    Now, if they had a real USP then they may well rock and roll – otherwise this is a just another dead parrot. Maybe they should try telling the truth, that would be a USP. A mainstream media gold-plated name that tells the facts, clearly and untainted. And that investigates until the truth is revealed without influence from any quarter other than its readership.

  3. From my understanding, the old advertising-based online model the Times were using was an epic money hole – does anyone have any ideas if this new model will lead to them losing more or less?

  4. James Benn

    If they think 12,500 iPad customers will renew they’re going to be sorely disappointed. Current subscribers have not yet renewed their subscription which was extended by a month due to technical difficulties. Most subscribers (myself included) would have signed up for a month to try out the iPad edition and based on iTunes App Store ratings more than 50% are less than satisfied!


    Paywalls will work. The reason? Well, human beings are creatures of habit. We are not used to pay walls right now – just as many people weren’t used to using the internet for everything. There will be a big uproar about how paywalls don’t work, but as long as Murdoch and the rest hold strong, people will realize that like with anything else in life – quality costs money. I think what will happen is that people will snub their noses at paywalls and they’ll attempt to receive the same quality journalism/etc. at other non-paywall sites… After a period of time (which I don’t have the answer to), people will begin to realize that they can’t find the same quality and usefulness at the other blog sites all over the internet.

    It’s kind of like this – You can go and buy a new Rock CD at the store for $15 (PAYWALL!!!), or you can go to the local bar and watch a Rock band play for FREE (NO PAYWALL!!) and get their CD for FREE or close to it. It just isn’t the same – people want the best – they will pay for the best – it will just take some time for the world to get used to this new change, just as it took them a long time to adapt (and many haven’t still) to the changed world we now live in. Even businesses [smart people ;) ] haven’t adapted to these changes.

    The bottom line is that this entire idea of paying for quality isn’t new – people have been paying for newspapers for 100 years! Nothing is new here really – everyone will adjust eventually. The only thing I see as changing is the payment methods.

  6. One tenth of 12 percent paid means only 1.2% of readers have paid. That’s about what I’d expect – I think the number may rise a little over time. The question is does the amount they pay add up to more than the amount of lost add dollars?

  7. Ian Breen

    I think this wont work. I think Twitter will now become a tailored news service and that entrepreneurial journalists will pretty soon figure out the monetisation platform for story sponsorship.

  8. Nuri Yalcin

    Newspapers need realize their inherent conundrum: Their brand power comes from the statements they make. It is clear that a lot fewer people will be exposed to the messages of a paper if a pure paid model is introduced. Freemium makes sense from this aspect as well: News reports and articles should be made partially available so that everyone can see the paper’s stand without having to pay or even log-in. Then, if there’s anything one wants to read in detail, one can pay just for that.

  9. Paywall versus free is the new heated battle. But whatever happened to the freemium, that is mixing paid and free. Shouldn’t some of the content be free with the option to upsell more “exclusive” content. This is the way does it and it works.