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Anorak | Let’s Spell It Out, The Times Paywall Is A Disaster

Let’s Spell It Out, The Times Paywall Is A Disaster

by | 19th, July 2010

THE Times website has lost 66% of its audience since the online paywall went up the other week – disastrous news I’d have thought, but not according to the Guardian.

It’s “a dramatic decline, but not as steep as many had forecast,” it opines. How steep is steep? “The site had been expected to lose 90% of its traffic.”

This ridiculous claim is unsourced and I suspect dreamt up by a PR contact within News International. It is hardly probable that the paywall would have been launched on an expectation of retaining just 10% of readers.

The Guardian is spinning the story quite simply because in common with other newspapers it’s half hoping the paywall will be a success. Who can blame them? It’s giving its newspapers away free on the internet right now and facing huge losses. So, we must go elsewhere for a more instructive perspective.

Step forward Michael Wolff, acclaimed biographer of  News International owner Rupert Murdoch.  On his blog he writes:

“My sources say that not only is nobody subscribing to the website, but subscribers to the paper itself—who have free access to the site—are not going beyond the registration page.”

I am happy to forgive the slight exaggeration.

Of the Guardian/Observer’s sympathetic coverage, he adds:

“David Mitchell, writing in the Observer on Sunday in a heavily retweeted article, was full of ire about the righteousness of free news and enthusiasm about the prospects for Internet payment plans—he sees Murdoch as the last best hope for getting us paid for our labors.”

The other week Madame Arcati noted that the Sunday Times’ paywall video promo lacked enthusiasm. In contrast The Times’ vid frothed excitedly about interacting with readers. Wolff now offers an explanation for this rift in approach:

“Sunday Times editor John Witherow… would prefer never to hear a peep from his readers once he has watched the paper leave Wapping in gigantic trucks on a Saturday night.”

Lanky Witherow – suffering from a midlife crisis and no longer living in the marital home, last I heard – appears oblivious to the fact that audience interactivity is a vital part of what internet media are all about. His days as editor must be numbered.

Meanwhile, The Times/Sunday Times bastard siblings The Sun and News of the World are unaffected by the paywall – giving it all away, tits and all. Most wise. Yet most baffling.



Posted: 19th, July 2010 | In: Key Posts Comments (6) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink