More than 60,000 people read The Times’ iPad edition every morning, according to Tom Whitwell, editorial director, The Times.
Speaking at today’s AOP forum, Whitwell said the iPad edition has been a “real game changer” for the publisher since it moved to a paid-for model in 2010 and it now has more than 130,000 subscribers.
He also said that in behavioural terms The Times iPad edition is most similar to its traditional print offering as people choose to read it in the morning between 7am and 9am, while the website is read mainly at lunchtime. Furthermore when looking in more detail around half its subscribers are also reading it in the late afternoon at around 5pm, which “poses an interesting opportunity”, according to Whitwell.
As such the publisher is now looking at how to ensure readers get as much from the product later in the day as they do in the morning. He suggested one possibility would be to produce later editions as it did during the Olympics.
Despite the backlash the publisher received when it first moved to its pay model and the doubts highlighted within the industry, Whitwell said advertising has not suffered. “Advertising is not dead, yields on ads are up enormously and The Times iPad edition offers a most interesting opportunity at the moment,” he said.
He added that being fearless in its pursuit was essential, adding “If we had sat there and said ‘everyone thinks this is a bad idea’ we’d still be thinking of ways to get people to advertise [and that would be the main way of monetising content] but we were able to make a decision and stick to it… Going from 22m eyeballs to 130,000 subscribers is not loss but incredible opportunity.”
In line with this, Whitwell said it’s not the quantity of engagement that matters but the quality. As an example he said having thousands of comments on an article doesn’t necessarily mean you have an engaged audience, but if you have 100 comments and readers can see that The Times’ own journalists are part of that conversation it adds more value and also justifies the charge.
“When people see [journalists commenting] they understand what they’re paying for,” he said.