The revelation that the Times and Sunday Times have lost 1.2million readers since it started charging for content doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
A business model which charges people for something which they can get elsewhere for free is hardly going to work, but News International have gone completely silent since the paywall went up, failing to release any figures on what’s happening on the other side of the wall. There silence is ominous- the less they say about how the pay wall is working, the more people will talk.
The latest figures come from Comscore, and previous (negative) figures have been given by Experian Hitwise, but no figures can tell the full story except those from News International themselves. Are they biding their time until the figures show some kind of increase? Are they desperately trying to think of some positive spin they can put on the prospect of a falling readership? Do they just not care about falling numbers?
Apparently ‘the response from advertisers has been positive’. Having to subscribe to a website means that advertisers have more information about a person, and the more information they have, the more valuable it is to them. Perhaps Times subscriber is worth double a Daily Mail reader. Good for advertisers then, but not for journalists or readers, and it depends who News International decide the Times is actually for. They, and other online newspapers, need to find a business model that combines all of them, not excludes one or the other.
A major flaw of this new business model is that no one can link to Times content through blogs or Twitter, and it no longer appears in online news searches. It’s this link economy which gives meaning to online content, and without meaningful content, what’s the point? Without it people will soon forget that the Times actually exists and it will disappear into irrelevance, and advertisers will realise that it’s not just about accessing readers information, it’s about engaging with them through meaningful content in the online world.
Then again, who can tell if their advertising is going well or not when they won’t tell us what is going on behind the wall.
Published on behalf of Lynsey Barber