Study: NYT Visits Off As Much As 15 Percent A Day Since Paywall Debut

15 Comments

Credit: Flickr / Robert Scoble

In what is the first close-look at traffic to the New York Times’ website since the debut of its paywall late last month, analytics firm Experian Hitwise says visits to NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT) have been off between 5 percent and 15 percent most days during the 12 days following the paywall’s launch, compared to days during the previous period. (Visits were actually down only slightly on Friday and up on Saturday, possibly because of interest in the budget showdown).

Under the New York Times’ paywall plan, visitors can read 20 articles a month free before being prompted to pay up, and, indeed, the data Experian Hitwise collected shows that traffic was off the most –15 percent — on the last day of March, when the greatest number of visitors to the site would have reached their monthly article limit (March 31 is the first Thursday on the below chart):

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It does not appear as though the daily drop off in visitors has accelerated in April as this month has progressed. Instead, the daily decrease seems to have stayed steady at between 5 percent and 10 percent a day. The news rush last week however may have meant that the drop-off in traffic from visitors who decided not to pay was offset — and, by Saturday, more than offset — by occasional or new readers coming to the Times’ website that day for its politics coverage.

It’s also worth noting that the Times has implied that the impact of its plan on the overall number of visitors to its site should be minimal, since executives have said that only 15 percent of monthly visitors to NYTimes.com are heavy users who read more than 20 articles a month and therefore would be prompted to pay.

And, of course, it’s possible that a significant percentage of those heavy users have in fact already decided to pay in order to read additional Times content online. Many of them, however, have decided not to. The Experian Hitwise data indicates page views are off more than visits are, and even dropped on Saturday, when overall visits were up, indicating that the paywall is indeed cutting some readers off. (Note again that page views were off the most on the first Thursday on the chart, the last day of March):

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15 Comments

Greg Golebiewski

So disprove me, Staci. Next time when one of your reporters writes NYT Visits Off As Much As 15 Percent A Day Since Paywall Debut, replace it with NYT. Visits Fluctuate From -15 To +7 Percent Daily, Pre &Post Pay Wall. This would be true; this would be unbiased reporting.

Greg Golebiewski @znakit

Yes Staci, I agree that subscription is different. Nevertheless, it is a form of paying for news that you have been claiming would be impossible to introduce. I remember your poll very well, b/c it was a piece of anti-paid-content propaganda, as biased as it could be. It claimed that only 5% of those studied would pay for news and about 54% of those would prefer subscription over any other form of payment. The current NYT data might be premature to analyze, but it certainly proofs you were wrong.

And BTW. Thank yo for reporting on Znak it’s winning the Florin Community Award. If bankers and payment professionals show interests in content monetization solutions, it must be significant, right?

Staci D. Kramer

No, Greg. Sadly all it proves is that you persist in mischaracterizing our
reporting.

ErnestPayne

Rupert Murdoch must have believed the reputation of the NYT. It has been coasting on that for decades. Not worth buying the print edition let alone paying for the electronic version.

Charles King

The new limits imposed by NYT have had no effect whatever on my daily use of the site. I regard the service primaily as a tipoff to the major news of the day and a measure against other sources on the web. It is still a valuable service and the price (free) is right.

bob

I have always clicked on ads on the NYTimes site to pay my way. That’s the best I can or will do. I don’t think pay content of any kind will ever work. (I know I know, the wall street journal — but look at their highly wealthy readership – the exception that proves the rule) Micropayments might work if done right, but I doubt it.

Staci D. Kramer

Bob — I’m curious. Do you pay for any other content? Movies, magazines,
newspapers, music?

bob

I pay on the internet via clicking ads, which I feel is a legitimate and sufficient payment and which I do regularly on sites I like. I do own some CDs and LPs. We also subscribe to Netflix and have satellite TV. I subscribe to no newspapers or magazines nor do I go to movies in theatres.

Staci D. Kramer

Thanks, Bob. That gives me a much clearer picture.

jacob soloway

i have been a daily reader since 1945 when my ps 221 /bklyn made every pupil pay 5 cents a wk/ now i have 2 pay $1.86 a week/ but i do get sat/ sun/ included/ this enables me 2 continue 2 get news the day before it is avalable 2 read in print / thank g d i can afford the cost difference

Elena

A really stupid article even by the standards of pC. Have a think about how major news events in the world might skew such results over such a small period of time. Then have a think about whether there were any major news events over that period.

Staci D. Kramer

Thanks for the thoughtful note. Hitwise points out — and so do we — that
traffic can be affected by major news events. It’s not like anyone is
comparing the first day of earthquake coverage to the least eventful day you
can imagine and using that to define anything. Or, say, directly comparing
unique visits for February with a month that has more days and saying it was
down. This is a snapshot of a very specific period and clearly defined that
way.

NYC

Their traffic was very high during Feb & March due to people’s interest in their Middle East and Japan’s coverage. Visits had to go down at some point.

Greg Golebiewski

A really sad news for the critics of the NYT’s meter and paid content (the concept, not this newsletter), isn’t it? I am sure you do not want to recall your Harris/paidContentUK survey that predicted that only about 5% of newspaper readers would pay for content.

Staci D. Kramer

This doesn’t have anything to do with subscription numbers. When we do look at subscription numbers for NYTimes.com it will be based on a percentage of the 15 percent of users that the company estimates will hit the wall; not on the number of newspaper readers (since digital access is free with print) or on the overall number of unique visitors to the site.

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