What happens to the pay digital service of the London Times? The Columbia Journalism Review offers an interesting assessment.
When Murdoch decided four years ago to move the digital service of the Times to a fully paid offer, a lot of people considered he was misguided. The common opinion, shared in France by le Figaro and le Monde, was that a successful offer on the web should combine a certain amount of free articles financed by advertising and a subscription for a more extensive coverage of the news. With its pay wall after 15 or 10 free articles, the NY Times made a slightly different offer.
And yet, the more recent figures show that Murdoch is about to succeed. In two years, the number of subscribers went up by 38%. Now, there are 153000 subscribers paying between 3 and 10 dollars a week. Paywall revenues amount now to 60 millions dollars which has greatly helped the Times to reduce its losses, from 120 millions in 2009 to 10 millions last year.
Also, very interesting is the fact that digital subscribers spend a lot of time reading the daily: 40 mn against 44 mn for the print subscribers. It appears that, contrary to readers who have a free access, digital subscribers behave like the people who buy the print edition. This way, the Times can offer a total readership larger than four years ago.
Sure, the Times, with its hard paywall system doesn't get ad revenues but is it a real problem?
It is a well known fact that advertising on the web is lagging behind as there is such a deadly competition. It could be a safe bet for a newspaper to forget it and try to improve and enlarge in many ways the pay offer.
A lot of food for thought for quality newspapers like le Monde and le Figaro.