News Int paywall creates around 200,000 digital sales
After months of speculation, News International has finally unveiled figures for its paywall experiment at The Times and the Sunday Times websites; it has generated 105,000 digital-only sales and a further 100,000 print subscribers have activated their digital accounts, since July.
It’s important to note numbers for the digital-only subscribers include those people subscribing to The Times’ iPad app and Kindle edition – believed to be around 40,000.
As a result, the total paid audience for digital products on The Times and The Sunday Times is close to 200,000, allowing for some duplication.
So they are the numbers, higher than those early predictions – although you would hope some traction from its multi-million ad campaign – but notably lower than the numbers being bandied around by analysts Nielsen last week of 362,000 paid subscribers.
Is this enough?
The figures have prompted a cautiously optimistic response from News International’s leaders. Chief executive Rebekah Brooks said “we are very pleased”, and added: “These figures very clearly show that large numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism in digital formats.”
“It is early days but renewal rates are encouraging and each of our digital subscribers is more engaged and more valuable to us than very many unique users of the previous model.”
Times editor James Harding echoed Brooks’ ‘early days but
encouraging’ stance on Radio 4′s Today programme, while James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia took encouragement after adding all the figures together.
“In the few months since we launched these new products, the total paid
circulation of The Times has grown. This reinforces our belief that our
journalism is valuable and that customers will respond to the investment,
innovation and quality that are hallmarks of our titles and our company.”
It’s the first time in 225 years that The Times is being sold on something other than paper and many of the ‘early adopters’ are reported to live in the UK, are relatively affluent and engage with the products frequently.
Commercially, there are still too many unknowns around the figures to determine how much revenue has been generated. The variety of daily, weekly or monthly charges, coupled with the nominal introductory offer of £1 for the first 30 days to access both sites, completely muddies the waters.
However, a News Int spokesperson has confirmed monthly subscribers make up the largest proportion of subscribers followed by daily payments and then iPad downloads.
Of course, News Int is currently out of pocket following a multimedia ad campaign and initial set-up costs but, if nothing else, Murdoch’s experiment has already proved that some people will pay to access general, non-niche news content online.