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Times Paywall In Questionable 'Success'

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the for-some-definition-of dept.

The Almighty Buck 214

takowl writes "It's been a few months since The Times newspaper in the UK (part of the Murdoch stable) hid its online stories behind a paywall. The media watched eagerly to see if people would pay for news online. Now The Times has uncovered its first results: some 105,000 have coughed up online, and another 100,000 print subscribers have access. Naturally, the paper is keen to promote this as a success: some people are willing to pay. The BBC's technology correspondent, on the other hand, reckons: 'it's safe to assume that Times Newspapers has yet to achieve the same revenues from its paywall experiment that were available when its website was free.' Will online subscribers help the Times survive? Will other papers follow its lead?"

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BBC vs Murdoch (2, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099742)

'The BBC's technology correspondent, on the other hand, reckons: "it's safe to assume that Times Newspapers has yet to achieve the same revenues from its paywall experiment that were available when its website was free."'

No it isn't. It's possible to believe it (and so do I) but it's not safe to assume anything. Data please.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099804)

Technically accurate. However, the 20+ million pageviews that they have DEFINITELY lost is an awful lot of ad revenue to miss out on. Their paywall statistics include paper-subscribers, trial-subscribers, one-off subscribers, reporters who subscribed so they could accurately report on the new system, etc. so are nowhere near 200,000 "regular subscribers" at £1 / day or £2 / week (so assume £10 a month per person on average, for 75,000 actual online users to be really generous? 750k a month? What do Google ads pay for 20+ million pageviews a month? I'm guessing as much, if not more, and the paper in question always commanded some extraordinarily high advertising rates because of its readership).

It *sounds* to me like "Look, we were right, it works!" when in fact it's more of a "It wasn't a complete loss, for our particular (high-earning) readership, at the start, if we count all our paper subscribers who get it free anyway, and we have no idea what'll happen next year." It's doubtful that any other papers could or would follow this model, at that was much more of the point of this exercise - it was an attempt to "normalise" online-paywalls as the access for a newspaper.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (5, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100128)

There are 105,000 paying subscribers. The rest are print subscribers who get free access to the website. Half of the paying subscribers use the iPad App at £10 per month less Apple's commission. From what I can see they are making about £10m per year in subscription revenue less billing costs compared to £22m in advertising revenue previously.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (0)

dorre (1731288) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100558)

Paywalling is good!
Also for customers. Because
You get more:
People will not pay for sites that have a bullshit contents.
Alas, the content providers have an incentive to make good content.
Less:
Let's just fucking make some big headline about paris hilton that we just made up to increase hits and revenue!!!!!

Ads sucks!

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100142)

Lets say you get 1 dollar for every 1000 impressions (that is probably high). Not including clickthru rates.

At 20 million views per month before that turns into 20k subscribers at 1 dollar per month before you break even. Then when you 'flip the switch' and only 5k sign up you have a bigger problem... Meaning there is not enough market there for it. Also 20k per month is not sustainable. That would pay 2-3 guys salary?

Even beforehand they should have know what 'average page read' was. Back of the envelope math would say 4 pages average is at 30 days per month with 20million impressions is about 160k users. You would need a 12.5% turnover from free to paying. Thats pretty high when you were giving it away for free a month ago...

Now that I do the math they are in big trouble... Wonder how much I can short :)

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (4, Insightful)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100208)

Not exactly.

In radio, studios will have employee's call in to new shows pretending to be the average Joe in order to create the impression of an active product. Newspapers in this respect are no different, in beefing up the numbers.

Everyone needs to keep in mind that anything heard on the radio, seen on the TV or read in print belongs to the entertainment industry.

- Dan.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100366)

His newspapers bleed money anyway and are probably worth less in total than the money Murdoch made a few months ago from selling a Chinese TV network. Any money made at all from the paywall sites is just a byproduct of a game to make it look as if the BBC, Google etc are stealing from him and destroying jobs.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099810)

From the BBC's own article, they were expecting to lose 90% of their visitors, and they only lost 87%. This means that their revenue is 30% higher than they expected, and presumably they would not have done this if they had not expected to be profitable. As I recall, they needed to retain something like 5% to match their previous income, so it sounds like the paywall has increased their revenue.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099848)

It's not as simple as that.

Someone who, for one single day, paid £1 to view one single article to see how it worked is classed the same as someone who has a regular paper subscription for the last 30 years (because paper subscribers get online subscriptions for free), who is classed the same as someone who specifically signed up to the online version only, etc.

£1 a day, £2 a week, and lots of variations in between. The number of "subscribers" is irrelevant - it's the type and price of those subscriptions and their regularity. Besides, I expect the majority of their first "four months" published income to be heavily biased towards the first month... they might have made a complete loss for the three after that! Give it a year, see if they are still operating the same system.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (5, Interesting)

mSparks43 (757109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100038)

Actually, Its much funnier than that.
->unique visitors to its front page

only 100,000 went beyond that.
21million
to
100,000
means they lost 99.53% of their readers

And for those not in the UK, they've been slamming adverts on TV asking people to join, but we all know its google these days that drive visitors, and they've all but vanished from that.
Once you factor in attrition I'll give them 12 months left to live.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100312)

but we all know its google these days that drive visitors, and they've all but vanished from that.

Murdoch is not an idiot and knows just how dangerous it is to have one gatekeeper to the Internet... especially a gatekeeper which almost requires your site to use its chosen revenue model (unrestricted pages covered in advertisements) if you want to be easily accessible through it.

But then there is the Slashdot basement crowd, cheering on a new monopoly and telling this almost unbelievably cunning political and business genius how stupid he is...

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (2, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100402)

Sorry, but I'd rather have a monopoly that points me to many free sources of news and opinion than pay cash to a muckraker.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

mSparks43 (757109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100606)

of course by "google"
I meant
Google
Bing
Yahoo
dogpile
Altavista
ask

etc.
Hardly the monopoly you claim.
Although I wouldn't be surprised if Murdoch was planning to use his monopoly on news media to try and force google et al. to pay to index his sites.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (5, Interesting)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100626)

Complete BS.

You don't need to pay Google anything.

(Yes, I realize this is an anecdote.)
My business (computer repair) was paying Google about $200/month for adwords. And it was poor targeting. Keywords & regions are it. For example, I couldn't have no ads on the weekends, and lots of ads on Monday. Even if I did it manually, the numbers changed gradually. So we decided to stop adwords since we weren't getting any real hits from it. Now, we get calls regularly from people who found us on Google. They seemed to be ignoring us if they saw us in adwords, but actually contact us if we're not in adwords. So we're more profitable AND have fewer expenses.

Tell me you don't subconsciously ignore businesses with excessive/annoying ads.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

Osrin (599427) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099812)

Indeed, the data would be interesting - I suspect that it will show less income, but will also could potentially show considerably less cost. For Murdoch it will be profitability that matters, not revenue.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100164)

It costs the same to get Jeremy Clarkson to write a weekly column whether 1 person reads it or 22 milion people read it. Hosting costs are not that great in comparison.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099982)

'The BBC's technology correspondent, on the other hand, reckons: "it's safe to assume that Times Newspapers has yet to achieve the same revenues from its paywall experiment that were available when its website was free."' No it isn't. It's possible to believe it (and so do I) but it's not safe to assume anything. Data please. Cheers, Ian

Since we seem to be playing "prime pedant" I should point out that neither you, the OP or I will be in any personal danger from making that assumption.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100290)

Since we seem to be playing "prime pedant" I should point out that neither you, the OP or I will be in any personal danger from making that assumption.

And purely because we're playing pedant -- I almost feel ashamed to post this but...

it should be neither .... nor

I agree with the original sentiment BTW

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100384)

Well, if we absolutely must have a pedantry thread, somebody is going to have to point out that "neither" shouldn't be used when there are more (or, indeed, fewer) than two possibilities, so it shouldn't be neither/or or neither/nor. "Not you, the OP, or I" might be the safest construction.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

martijnd (148684) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100140)

The BBC is going to feel the heat in a much different way.

Publishers (eg. Murdoch) have been trying to roast the Beeb for competing unfairly with them online and they might have just been handed a stick.

Over the water in the Netherlands the newly installed Dutch government has stated that its undesirable for publicly funded broadcasters in the Netherlands to be competing with commercial publishers on the Internet. It wants to take this to the logical conclusion and shut down websites maintained by the various publicly funded (broadcasting) organisations.

Whether this is sanity or lunacy is of course debatable.

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100304)

their viewership now is quite low, the assumption is that they're missing out so much on daily pageviews that the 100 000 people who subscribed for a day or week don't offset that.
the bbc correspondent did that analysis and made that statement - making him more than a copy pasting puppet like many journalists nowadays are.

what's the risk in doing this assumption and living by it? none, really, unless you're a newspaper who wants to emulate what they did and don't do it because their 'success' seems like it isn't a success. good thing with assumptions is that they're already earmarked as subject to change if more data appears.

if you compare the online viewers to circulation number, then it's not so bad, but if you compare how many people who read their paper, online or offline, they just shot their own feet, they had a good thing going with getting readers from markets they couldn't reach before being on the net. and I never before realised that the times had such a low circulation.

good luck for them selling lucrative campaigns on their current viewership vs. the viewership they used to have!

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100364)

Let's read carefully - some 105,000 have coughed up online, and another 100,000 print subscribers have access.

So, we can probably assume that 5 thousand people have actually signed up, since they may be counting the 100k print subscribers in the 105k who are "paid for online", since paying for the paper = online access, correct?

Re:BBC vs Murdoch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100636)

Agreed. Plus it's pretty rich for the BBC to criticise them. The BBC are paid out of license fee collected on threat of imprisonment from everyobne in the UK, regardless of whether they ever watch the BBC at all.
It's easy to knock the free market way of doing things when the state pays for your ass.
I have no objections to the paywall, I just think they set the pricing too high, but nobody here has the figures, so unless you are richer than murdoch, criticising his business strategy just makes you look like a blowhard.

100000 wealthy viewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099748)

of Murdoch tat.

Probably a good demographic for advertisers to tap within the Great Firewall of Murdoch.

OTOH, I'm not missing access to the Times one little bit.

Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (3, Insightful)

sethstorm (512897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099752)

...nothing of value was lost.

Re:Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (2, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100032)

I dunno, I used to read Jeremy Clarkson's column...

Re:Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100674)

That odious turd Clarkson is on there is he? Even more reason for the Times to crash, burn, fall into a ditch full of shit and die.

Re:Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100146)

So you're suggesting none of Murdoch's holdings have any value whatsover? Then I suppose you don't watch anything on any of the Fox broadcast networks, watch movies made and distributed by Fox, read WSJ or book published by HarperCollins?

Yeah I didn't think so. Please shut the fuck up before spouting anything so stupid.

Looking beyond the numbers (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100200)

...nothing of value was lost.

That depends on who his readers are and where their influence will be most felt.

The WSJ is an early and successsful example of a paywall. The WSJ was merged into News Corp in 2007. The newspaper or magazine that is considered a must-read by decision makers in business and government is never safe to ignore.

Re:Looking beyond the numbers (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100684)

And everyone else in the news business assumes that they can do it profitably because the WSJ did it. Yet the WSJ is the exception that proves the rule. The WSJ is about the only news source that gives you greater depth than any of the AP stories that all the other newspapers publish. There aren't any other newspapers that are must-read, so why would any others be profitable behind a paywall?

Re:Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100316)

Indeed, even if it is profitable, then it's still a plus that there's 87% less people reading that crap.

Re:Since it's a Murdoch holding.... (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100536)

The Times is a very readable newspaper and generally kept its "opinion" to the editorials where it belonged. The problem I see is that there is nothing special about it. Lots of news sites are readable and a lot of news is recycled PA / Reuters agency stuff anyway. Of the remainder, it's still just reporting the same news that every other news outlet is reporting on. Unless you advidly had to do the Times crossword or read the letters page or the bridge column or whatever else remains then what distinguishes the Times from any other news outlet? You can get substantially the same content (or analogous) content from a number of free sources. So if the Times wants to go behind a paywall... well so long we hardly knew ye. Ex-readers will have to console themselves with reading the Telegraph instead which I'm sure will be grateful if it increases the number of page impressions.

Another question (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099754)

How many of these people are going to pay again?

Re:Another question (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100078)

Homer solved this problem

Homer: Uh, Milhouse saw the elephant twice and rode him once,
right?
Mrs. Van Houten: Yes, but we paid you $4.
Homer: Well, that was under our old price structure. Under
our new price structure, your bill comes to a total of
$700. Now, you've already paid me $4, so that's just
$696 more that you owe me.
Mr. Van Houten: Get off our property.

"Bart Gets an Elephant" The Simpsons

Re:Another question (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100228)

How many of these people are going to pay again?

At £2/week, I wonder how many simply won't notice the money leaving their bank account for some time.

Oh dear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099762)

Did they take tips from June Maxam?

heh (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099770)

From TFA:

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

If 0.1% of a country being willing to pay for it can be considered a success for a major newspaper..

Re:heh (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099776)

Arg, I'm tired.. I meant to comment on the "large numbers" not being so large.

Re:heh (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099832)

Compare it with print circulation figures [wikimedia.org] . Only three have more than a million readers. This means that they have about 20% of their paper readers also using the web site, and another 20% exclusively online readers, on top of their print readership. Sounds like a pretty large number to me.

Missing data (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100058)

How many people used to read it before? That's the only real measure of success, and we're not being told.

Re:Missing data (2, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100172)

22 million people used to read it before.

Re:Missing data (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100424)

How many people used to read it before? That's the only real measure of success

Er, no. Net profit is the only real measure of success. Murdoch also wants the political influence, no doubt, but I don't think that can be measured by anything as simple as the number of readers.

Re:heh (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100074)

Closer to 0.3%.

That's not too bad. Considering this is in addition to people who purchase the newspaper (not through a subscription). I also imagine that it is more desirable to those people with tablets and ebook readers, which is an increasing market segment.

Donate button? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099772)

Again, just post a Donate button on your website, whatever it is. Those who use it and have lots of disposable income can donate.

Re:Donate button? (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099782)

Indeed. The kind of person that would be willing to legitimately get passed a paywall would quite likely be willing to donate, should a button be tastefully integrated into the main site.

Maybe I have a too much faith in humanity, but I like to think this would be the case...

Re:Donate button? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099800)

And those with millions of dollars who enjoy the site can easily donate 5,000 dollars and it won't hurt them a bit. It will balance out those who have little or nothing and use it for free.

Re:Donate button? (2, Funny)

crimperman (225941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099932)

Yes because there is a history of those with a lot of money being prepared to give any of it away

Re:Donate button? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100034)

But how is poor Rupert Murdoch going to survive without generating a profit from his online news websites?

Re:Donate button? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100054)

There actually IS such a history - however it is very slanted towards giving money to some charity or other enterprise such that it generates kudos for the philanthropist from society. Actions that are just transferring money from one rich person to another with no gain are the ones where rich people will not deign to let any of that money out of their hands. And I hardly blame them.

Re:Donate button? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100434)

There actually IS such a history - however it is very slanted towards giving money to some charity or other enterprise such that it generates kudos for the philanthropist from society.

Or to buy political influence / support a political agenda. Supporting the Murdoch press could fall in that category.

Re:Donate button? (1)

greyc (709363) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100192)

Yes because there is a history of those with a lot of money being prepared to give any of it away

While you probably said this in irony, you are in fact, absolutely correct: There is such a history. See the appropriate wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] for a short list of examples.

Re:Donate button? (1)

Zeek40 (1017978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100292)

And the fact that we have a special term for 'rich people who actually give some of their money away', and are able to compile a list of those few people who do so wasn't enough to demonstrate to you that it's an uncommon phenomenon?

Re:Donate button? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099936)

Furthermore, the rich should be *forced* to pay more. As the politicians are keen to point out: it is right that those with the broadest shoulders should pay more. It is only "fair".

Re:Donate button? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100014)

As the politicians are keen to point out: it is right that those with the broadest shoulders should pay more. It is only "fair".

What have you got against Rugby players?

Re:Donate button? (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100016)

Maybe I have too little faith in humanity, but I like to think that if businesses could make big money by letting people donate then they'd be doing it already. I expect new sources to provide content that requires greater paid resource to produce than Slashdot.

Re:Donate button? (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100386)

Indeed. The kind of person that would be willing to legitimately get passed a paywall would quite likely be willing to donate, should a button be tastefully integrated into the main site.

Maybe I have a too much faith in humanity, but I like to think this would be the case...

I disagree - not because of lack in faith in humanity, but because the benefit is much reduced. Instead of getting an ad- and (hopefully) third-party-ad-host-tracking-free experience, such a donation would only make the donor feel better while getting nothing tangible in returns. That means that you're limited strictly to the people paying for altruistic reasons, which reduces your pool of donors considerably from the already-small pool of people willing to pay for a subscription.

Re:Donate button? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099900)

So is this the way YOU get paid?

Self-serving moronic comments welcome.

Self-fulfilling obscurity (4, Interesting)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099780)

I haven't had any reason to read the Times since nobody links to their articles any more. And since I have no reason to read the Times, I haven't had any reason to pay for it.

Because of the very negative political effects that Murdoch's money and influence is having both here (where The Sun newspaper has become a kingmaker in British politics and in the US and other countries), I rather object to giving money to Murdoch's companies. I'm very glad we have stopped paying for Sky, for instance - there's enough crap to watch on Freeview/Freesat without paying £40 a Murdoch to watch repeats littered with adverts.

Save democracy: starve the Murdoch beast!

Re:Self-fulfilling obscurity (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100390)

paying £40 a Murdoch to watch

40/Murdoch? Cheap at half the price!

But you are the one left sitting in the dark. (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100492)

I haven't had any reason to read the Times since nobody links to their articles any more. And since I have no reason to read the Times, I haven't had any reason to pay for it.

The Times remains the leading financial paper in the U.K. - as the WSJ - also News Corp - remains the leading financial paper in the U.S. You may not be reading the WSJ and Times - but some very big decisions are made by those who do.

 

Re:But you are the one left sitting in the dark. (4, Insightful)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100552)

Surely, the FT over the Times for financial news and info?

Re:But you are the one left sitting in the dark. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100690)

and considering the economic troubles we had recently it shows.

No longer relevant (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099796)

About a billion people are more or less on the internet. That being 1e9.
The Times count it a success that 1e5 or so people signed up.
Only about 1 in 10000 people even theoretically can access their site.
Not very impressive.

I suppose other newspapers could try to "compete" by shutting off their webservers 99.999% of the time.
Another way to compare, is TV shows get canceled when their market viewer share drops to something like a hundred times the Times market share.

Re:No longer relevant (2, Interesting)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099816)

Is that the right analogy though? Sure, if a advertising-funded (or, in Britain, a license-fee-payer-funded) show gets a small audience share, then it may get taken off air.

But I imagine that some of the porno channels that you have to pay a subscription for don't get many viewers. But so long as the viewers they have are paying enough to fund their whole operation, they don't really give a shit that they aren't getting the same number of viewers as Prison Break or whatever. (Same for premium non-porno channels.)

Re:No longer relevant (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099874)

And if "Naughty Nymphos 2" pulls in a hundred times as many subscribers as "Old grannies 52", does that mean they'd keep both?

Re:No longer relevant (2, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100000)

If they are up to 52, it must be a winning formula.

Re:No longer relevant (3, Insightful)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100002)

The point that vlm was making was that since such a small proportion of the Internet is subscribed to The Times, it must be a failure.

Getting 100,000 subscribers online is - if true - no bad thing. The top-selling broadsheet (Daily Telegraph) in Britain has a daily circulation of 691k. The Times itself has a 508k circulation. vlm is wrong to compare the subscriber numbers to the Internet as a whole: instead, you need to compare it with the UK broadsheet market. Because, really, all they need to do is cover their costs online. Anything else is profit, since they already have an existing offline newspaper business.

The problem is that it is doubtful whether they have got 100,000 subscribers: someone spending £1 trying out the paywall for a day is not necessarily someone who will then continue paying.

To see whether or not it has turned out to be a success, we need to wait until there are figures counting the subscribers once things have settled down and compare them with their own business objectives. It's a business: subscriber numbers don't matter, profit matters.

Re:No longer relevant (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100452)

Yes, they just put "Naughty Nymphos 2" on at prime time and "Old Grannies 52" on at past-prime time.

Re:No longer relevant (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100086)

Is that the right analogy though?

I was aiming more for the idea that the chattering classes don't talk about failed TV shows which are hundreds of times more popular than paying for The Times online.

Its possible to make profitable things which appeal to almost no one.

Much as I'm sure the Times will rapidly discover, its possible to make a profitable online newspaper that almost no one bothers to read.

Re:No longer relevant (1)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100360)

Oh, okay, that is a problem. Part of what makes a newspaper successful is being influential and widely-discussed. It certainly may stop being that by being behind a paywall. And if bloggers and social media users can't link to it, getting younger readers is going to be harder.

I have a funny feeling that the Times will not stop being influential offline though. It still has the status of being the 'paper of record' in Britain. It may actually end up being profitable, influential and read by almost no one. Which would be very strange indeed.

Re:No longer relevant (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100418)

About a billion people are more or less on the internet

And Rupert Murdoch was there on the internet making money from some of them in 1992.
We can't just write him off as a dinosaur.

Re:No longer relevant (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100422)

My local news web site probably has viewership of less than 100,000/day - insignificant by your numbers, and yet they provide community members with [sometimes] valuable information.

If we measured success by the percentage of all internet traffic received, you'd have a handful of "successful" sites while the rest would be capturing less than 1%. Instead, they're measuring by revenue which seems to make just a bit more sense - since they're in it for the money and not for being able to boast numbers.

Bollocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099828)

This is because they spent millions on advertising and offered a cheap introductory subscription. Only avid readers of shitty Murdoch publications would be convinced by the "success" story.

Terry Jones burns Times paywall at Ground Zero (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099870)

Terry Jones has called off his plans to burn a copy of The Times [newstechnica.com] at Ground Zero tomorrow, after the paywall caught alight for half an hour on Friday afternoon.

Jones had planned to burn The Times because, he claimed, Rupert Murdoch would not rest until he had paywalled all of Google, including the remarkably lucrative Monty Python channel on YouTube. However, he was "rethinking" his plans after approximately everyone in the whole world suggested that just because it was legal might not actually make it a very good idea.

"We have made a deal with the thirty-three journalists still trapped down in the newspaper," he said. "They will come out and Caitlin Moran will publicly recant her idiot piece from a few months ago about what an excellent idea the paywall was and how enormously pleased she was to be stuck behind it. Oh, didn't you read that?"

The journalists have been trapped down the shaft since the first of July, and are being dribbled readers through a straw to keep them alive and focused and make them think there's a point to being there.

"Of course, failing a recantation there will be a paywall conflagration that reaches the skies. All those lovely theoretical readers disappearing in a cloud of soot and cement dust! But I'm sure it'll hardly be noticed and no-one will be upset."

The "newspaper" was an ancient form of information distribution using cellulose pulp from crunched-up trees. It was popular in the early days of Google, when users would send written requests to the company enclosing a stamped self-addressed envelope and receive a reading list to take to their library, with an advertising flyer also enclosed.

Re:Terry Jones burns Times paywall at Ground Zero (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100020)

Is this the same Terry Jones that used to be in Monty python? He's done some very good documentaries on the middle ages and barbarians and such.

Re:Terry Jones burns Times paywall at Ground Zero (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100040)

Terry Jones has called off his plans to burn a copy of The Times [newstechnica.com] at Ground Zero tomorrow, after the paywall caught alight for half an hour on Friday afternoon.

Jones had planned to burn The Times because, he claimed, Rupert Murdoch would not rest until he had paywalled all of Google, including the remarkably lucrative Monty Python channel on YouTube.......

Thank God he called it off. There would have been Hooraah Henry's rioting in the streets, shouting "Death to Britain" and all sorts of chaos. Of course it would have all been Terry's fault because you can't expect the upper crust (the class of Peace) keep self control.

Re:Terry Jones burns Times paywall at Ground Zero (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100042)

Bravo, sir!

There may be a bright and promising future in journalism for you. Assuming, of course, that you can make up facts that glibly on an ongoing basis and stomach working for Murdoch.

Re:Terry Jones burns Times paywall at Ground Zero (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100202)

Allan Snackbar! Allan Snackbar! Behead Terry Jones! Allan Snackbar!

Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (3, Insightful)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099878)

I think it is natural that the media conglomerates built on the old publish and distribute business plan are going to have to compete directly against the journalists they normally employ.
Cost of publishing is now next to nothing, cost of distribution is now next to nothing. So what services does a Media company like The Times offer it's employee's to entice them from not competing directly against the company?
Forget about people not being willing to pay for a daily dose of articles that they may not ever read. That shouldn't be concerning Media Moguls. What should be worrying them is what is going to stop their talent from a mass exodus and compete against the company.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

bgt421 (1006945) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100188)

So what services does a Media company like The Times offer it's employee's to entice them from not competing directly against the company?

In the US? Health Insurance.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100370)

Very true but I would imagine if you are good enough to work for The Times then you earning 100% of the profits would easily overshadow cost of health care and sum. Especially if Obamamcare kicks into effect.

Aside from medical getting a set paycheck and possibly retirement options.

But you raise a good point that would drive average journalists to small publishers, but the truly talented writers could open their own shop.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100194)

When people deride Murdoch, they do so because much of what he does is opinion, not journalism. This is analogous with writing a coherent story as opposed to putting some fools on stage and letting them act like fools. One require thoughtful inquiry or analysis or reflection, the other requires...nothing.

The media outlets that survive will fulfill a need, either journalism, titilation, or vouyerism. The problem is that the later two are very easy to produce, and in the new media will not support a large ancillary staff and over paid executives, as The National Enquirer has learned.

Murdoch tends to try to create value by smoke and mirrors, putting crap in a shiny package and a bow. Some people like his crap and will pay for it. But will that be enough.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100230)

So what services does a Media company like The Times offer it's employee's to entice them from not competing directly against the company?

Oddly enough: a fairly secure source of income. As much as people like to think otherwise, advertising-based sites rarely make money -- especially when those sites create their own content rather than simply repost other people's work. Ebert's site has won several awards, is extremely popular for a one-person site, and yet advertising didn't get it to make a profit. [suntimes.com] I'm working as an entrepreneur in a different field, and though I'm planning on seeing it through these last two months or so before I release a product, right now it's all I can do to stop myself from giving up and begging for a boring job in a cubicle just so I can have a sense of security.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100240)

It mainly gives them a name which grants them access to people they would otherwise not get access to. If you call up the prime ministers office and triy to schedule an interview your chances are a lot higher if you say you are from th e Times than if you say y ou are some internet blogger. Whil bloggers certainly can, and do, get audiences with important people its rare and for the most part their fame is non-transferable.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (4, Insightful)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100244)

News organizations provide a lot more "value" to reporters than just physical distribution. There is a whole editorial infrastructure in place to make the stories better -- fact checkers and copy editors to make sure the stories are well-written and not wildly off-base, and assignment editors whose job is to have sense of what the big stories are nudge reporters in the right directions. Many of these support editors have decades of experience in the region being covered, know the people who need to be called, can connect a current story with longer-term themes, etc.

Then there's the ad sales people whose existence helps insulate the journalists from potential conflicts of interest (if you're both reporting and selling ads, are you objective and believable?). And of course there's the fact that a large news organization is a pool of capital that allows news reporters to draw a steady paycheck/get benefits rather than just living ad sale to ad sale, which helps convince journalists to remain journalists instead of getting into a more lucrative line of work.

Journalism is changing and should change radically in the coming years. And in fact in the drive to cut costs many news organizations have been removing just the sort of infrastructure I described (which strikes me as silly because it's what differentiates them from dude-with-a-blog competiton). But to say that the only thing a news org offers to a journalist is "distribution" is silly.

You have to make a living (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100456)

A newspaper may, in the end, make money largely through advertising, and to a lesser extent from subscriptions. Economy of scale has a lot of importance here - bit companies will be tens of thousands for a large, well placed advertisement.

How is the "talent" supposed to make money without the newspaper? A few click-throughs on a couple of Google ads are not going to replace the salary paid by a newspaper or magazine.

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

Combatso (1793216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100518)

float money.. you need a lot of bread, and some press credentials to get to the story... real news isnt just a link to some other story with your personal spin on it... Lois Lane needs Perry to pay for her plane tickets when the Eiffel Tower is under siege..

Re:Erosion of publishers & distribution chains (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100752)

What might happen is a lot of people get together to aggregate their web advertising and subscriptions so that instead of trying to get people to pay $0.001 to read something they can instead pay $1 to read a bunch of different things.

If you look at this carefully, you discover that this "aggregation" is what a Media Company is.

Of course, there is a simpler Obama-esque model that is also possible. You have to register with the government to publish anything and the government then pays you. Everything is then free. Of course, if you write something that the current incarnation of the government doesn't like they can stop paying you. You don't have to stop publishing - that would be against freedom of the "press". Except you starve because there are no non-government jobs. And if there were, the taxes would be 100%. Maybe 110%.

A good thing? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099914)

Whatever I think of The Times Or Murdoch himself, I'm glad that it's a success. Why? Because in the future, it gives not just big publishers, but small websites a chance in the future to earn through another channel (through nano/micro payments) rather than rely on advertising all the time.

And yes, it's stuff like that can help get rid of adverts. I suppose very few of the people who hate the idea of a low-cost paywall actually own a website which they at least update from time to time.

Re:A good thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099960)

Newpapers don't have advertisements in them? That's news to me. (no pun intended)

No, it's just a way for these greedy corporations to make even more money.

Re:A good thing? (2, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100496)

If you can't make money from ads, product endorsement, commission links and other things online (including companies directly approaching you trying to outbid your entire Google ad revenue), or your data isn't incredible precious and expensive (e.g. Ordnance Survey), you ain't *gonna* make money with charging to view a website. If you do, you could have made a LOT more by doing it another way. I'm not suggesting that The Times should team up with Cafepress and make a Times T-shirt, but the basic rule is that ads only work if you have exposure, and pay for that exposure, and if you don't have exposure it's impossible to make money from ads. But at the same time, when ads have good, public exposure, they make you an AWFUL lot of money (e.g. Superbowl ads).

My brother runs an extremely popular website (have to keep moving hosts because of bandwidth problems and it's only HTML/PNG/JPG's) that's funded entirely by Google ad revenue - he'd rather shut down the site than move it to a paywall because it would destroy the whole basis, community, reputation and income of the website. Related companies come to him now and say "we'll give you X amount of money just to put a link to us on your website". He has products sent to him for review. The offers have never once made more than he could through some Google ads, even after some tough negotiations - because the people who want to pay for advertising space can't compete with just asking Google to do it on related sites for them. Advertisers know their industry, which is about exposure, image, relevance and other things. People rarely pay YOU regularly for not doing very much but if the investment in quality is already there, advertising actually makes an awful lot of money, so much that even the biggest high street store can't afford to buy exclusivity.

If you can make money by someone paying you to do not very much, who also has to take their cut, probably multiple times, from a company who wants to be associated with your brand, why would you think that you can expect your CUSTOMERS to pay an equal amount plus profit to you directly? If that were true, advertisers would ALL be out of business. They aren't. They occasionally shift media but they very, very rarely abandon it. It's not that you CAN'T make money, it's that you're silly if there are lots of easier, still respected, legal, and industry-standard ways to make MORE money.

The problem is that people don't get the concept of having to be a quality link to make money from Google ads, and think they can do better by either a) gaming the links with substandard content, b) charging people for access to some information or c) reducing the quality and actually losing customers. And reputation matters. Anytime something goes from "Free" to "Paid" there's an associated loss of reputation. If you can't afford to give it away, why were you doing that last year or the year before?

No subject (1)

Artem Tashkinov (764309) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099926)

Whereas movie industry has large theaters and music industry has stadiums where they can recoup losses related to pirating of digital content, newspaper have nothing like that and it seems like it's their biggest problem. Good newspapers often have unique content or in-depth investigations, but most people are content with superficial sometimes even factually incorrect information.

Meanwhile paywall doesn't solve the aforementioned issue, it only sieves your readers and leaves the most dedicated ones. At the same time I still wonder what's more profitable - to leave your doors open and fill your website with ads or close your website with a paywall. If paywall allows a newspaper to be more profitable than without it, I see absolutely no problem here. Journalists, numerous personnel, rental payment - running a newspaper business is a costly affair.

News is no value anyways. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34099956)

Does this matter? most of the news today, online of online, has little or no absolute value, it is just sensationalism and about making money. One, two, hundreds of newspapers disappeared: who cares?

Re:News is no value anyways. (1)

bbtom (581232) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100070)

To be devil's advocate (and when you are arguing Rupert Murdoch's case, you really are being devil's advocate): might not the defender of the paywall say "yes, it has no value because people aren't paying for it". Paying for a newspaper means that they can put in actually important content because they can cover sending correspondents out to warzones and to spend the time doing in-depth investigative journalism, ploughing through government documents and archives and so on. And, you know, without that funding they will simply resort to doing cheap and crappy pseudo-journalism like pulling down easy entertainment stories and posting them online and waiting for the comment threads to push up their page view counts. Basically, that without direct funding from readers, you end up with Gawker rather than The Times.

You know, the same argument that the BBC make - that commercial advertising means you end up with lots more crappy game shows and and far fewer symphony orchestras and obscure John Peel sessions and 'Life on Earth' and so on.

Times doesn't like Firefox (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 3 years ago | (#34099968)

Under Firefox I get Times Error [imageshack.us] , under Chrome I get the registration page ..

No longer dependent on Google (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100410)

Every website is critically dependent on search results to push traffic to them. The day after google takes a dislike to you, you may as well shut the doors, fire all the staff and go home - you're dead, Jim.

By moving to a subscription model a lot of this dependency on the capriciousness of one single, search engine with less than transparent business practices has been removed - or at least hugely reduced. That in itself has got to be worth something in terms of hardening your company against unwelcome weaknesses. I guess the newspaper still has some dependency on search results to maintain its online marketing, but it must be in a less vulnerable position than its competition.

Re:No longer dependent on Google (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34100728)

Google isn't the only search engine - and blocking access from Google alone is stupidly simple. Hell, do a deal with Bing and give them free advertising in the paper if that's what you're worried about. Chances are, though, that you'll flop enormously still. People miss the fact that NOBODY is stopping someone making a better search engine that provides more relevant results that people want to use - Wolfram Alpha tried to be clever and do it and how many times have you used that in the past year compared to Google?

The paywall has nothing to do with Google, it's just a convenient sideswipe that can be incorporated. It's actually a fight against free news (either online or in print like at least one London newspaper), but the argument there falls down because people WOULD be willing to pay for quality content, even if it was offered for free anyway. It's an old business dinosaur who is just trying to squeeze every penny from any potential customer, not realising that if they DIDN'T, they'd have more potential customers and more money overall.

The Times' experiment won't change the economy of news media or search engines - they are just trying to stamp out some free competition by claiming they "must be better" because they cost more - like a Haagen Daaz or designer clothes of the newspaper world - a "fake" premium brand that people see and think "it's worth more" because of the price tag. Some people will always buy into it, but will enough buy into it that you are better off? I doubt it.

Title? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100600)

Times Paywall In Questionable 'success'

The Times paywall is designed to be used inside a questionable success?

Article headline of questionable correctness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100618)

Shouldn't the headline be "Times' Paywall of Questionable Success"? That is, an apostrophe denoting that it's a paywall for The Times, and no scare quotes around success. If scare quotes are desired, then questionable is redundant: "Times' Paywall a 'Success'". That communicates skepticism of its supposed success. Using questionable and scare quotes technically communicates the opposite, that you find the questionability itself questionable.

Numbers by fakery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34100746)

Except the vast majority of those 100k are on the 'introductory trial offer', and thus can't really be counted on to continue providing revenue. They've put millions into advertising and padded their numbers with these deals. I want to know how many people are actually paying the full rate for the online version, and how much actual money they are making from this. Until that's established this is just a meaningless statistic.

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