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The great online money experiment

The Times newspaper’s website has lost two-thirds of its readers since the launch of the paywall in which readers are requested to pay for access as of July 1. However, the decline is not as steep as experts predicted.

British newspaper The Guardian calculated that The Times has lost almost 90% of its online readership compared to February since making registration mandatory in June.

Internet traffic monitoring firm Experian Hitwise reported on less shocking data, saying that 66% less readers has visited the site since the paywall system was introduced.

The huge drop matches the industry expectation before The Times instituted the paywall that traffic would fall off by 90%, which is the standard experience when a site moves to a paid-access model instead of free access. The figures are also unlikely to surprise some executives at The Times: The Sunday Times's editor, John Witherow, predicted in May that “perhaps more than 90%” of pre-registration readers were likely to be lost once the registration-only service was implemented.

 

It is not clear whether the number of people visiting the site will generate enough revenue to justify the experiment, but media tycoon Rupert Murdoch – who controls The Times newspapers – says it could produce “significant revenues” and, if successful, could see other free-access news websites follow suit.

 

There are approximately 150,000 The Times print subscribers who get a free online registration, The Guardian says, but if the estimated 15,000 daily online users who agreed to pay opt for the £2 a week deal, the paywall will generate £120,000 a month – £1.4 million a year.

Murdoch’s final target is to charge £1 per day or £2 for a week for accessing The Times online. The Times started redirecting traffic to registration pages on 15 June, and put the paywall fully in place on 2 July.