NI upbeat on Times paywall

03 November 2010

LONDON: News International has claimed a "total paid audience" of 200,000 for UK newspapers The Times and The Sunday Times, websites for which went behind a paywall earlier this year.

In an upbeat statement, NI said that around one-quarter of the online readers access the content from monthly subscriptions.

Around 50,000 people are currently using an iPad app for The Times that they have either purchased or renewed in the past month, but NI ceo Rebekah Brooks would not confirm how many subscriptions in all had been renewed.

Nevertheless, Brooks described the renewal figure as "encouraging".

The company said that 100,000 existing print subscribers – who are entitled to an online subscription – had chosen to activate their internet accounts.

In addition, a total of 105,000 "digital products" had been sold in the form of monthly subscriptions, one-day passes or other ad hoc forms of access to the digital editions.

The Times became the first UK newspaper to charge for online content when its paywall was introduced in July.

Since then, NI has extended its digital charging policy to the News of the World, its Sunday tabloid.

"These figures very clearly show that large numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism in digital formats," Brooks said.

"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."

The success - or otherwise - of the NI paywall is being closely monitored by other newspaper proprietors and publishers, who have seen print revenues suffer as readers and advertisers migrate to the web.

Analysts believe that a lack of detail in the firm's numbers – particularly regarding renewals and the contribution made by one-off, introductory offers – could limit any useful conclusions regarding the firm's paywall strategy being drawn.

Times readers are currently charged £1 ($1.6; €1.1) for a day's digital access – the same price as the weekday newspaper – or £2 for a week's subscription to both the Times and Sunday Times sites.

Print subscribers gain free access, but international visitors face higher charges.

The Times iPad app costs £9.99 a month ($16; €11.4).

NI said many of the paying digital readers were "relatively affluent" and engaged with the products frequently.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff