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):
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):