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Traffic to The Times website hasn’t fallen as sharply as predicted since introducing its paywall in July, according to data from Nielsen, with unique visitors at 58% of its previous total.
The paywall went live on 2 July, at which point an average of 3.1m people were visiting the site each month. In the three months since then, the figure dropped to 1.78m, a 42.6% decline.
Of those 1.78m, 362,000 – a fifth of total visitors – access subscriber-only content. This group includes those who have paid for access, been given access by having a Times newspaper subscription, and those who are on a free trial.
These subscribers not only generate revenue, said Nielsen, but offer a “richer sales proposition” through a combination of providing more details about themselves, being more engaged with the site and being more socially affluent than the previous audience.
News International has adopted a paywall strategy to make up for lost revenue from declining print sales, and has consistently argued that surfers shouldn’t expect to access quality journalism for free online.
CEO Rebekah Brooks told staff in May she expected the number of unique site users to drop dramatically but that those who registered would be readers who had made a positive decision to pay a fair price for journalism they valued.
Earlier this month, News International also moved its News of the World paper behind a paywall (nma.co.uk 14 October 2010).
Nielsen’s analysis involved looking at the different URLs or subdomains within The Times website visited by UK individuals from home or work computers. Therefore, the figures don’t include visitors from outside the UK, those using mobile phones or UK people only visiting the site from internet cafés, airports or educational establishments.