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The Media News

Times Paywall Blocks 90% of Traffic 311

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-wouldn't-go-over-well-here dept.
Jamie was one of several readers to note the not particularly surprising results of the recent Times switch to a pay-wall. Apparently a 90% drop in readership is the reward. But then again, if they are paying real money, it might still be ok for them. It doesn't look very good though.
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Times Paywall Blocks 90% of Traffic

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  • The real question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:32AM (#32963200)

    The real question is how many of those remaining users are actual *new* subscribers and not just those who had already had print subscriptions even before the change. I suspect that number would make these stats even more dismal.

    It seems to me like the Times would have been better off offering *premium* content to subscribers rather than closing off the entire site altogether. At a certain point, if you're not out there in the digital world, you risk utter irrelevance. You can have the best reporters in the world, but if they're speaking to an empty room, they might as well not exist.

    Add to this the fact that they supposedly won't even allow their subscribers to cut/copy from stories or do searches, and it seems like a program almost designed to intentionally drive away interest. Even the subscribers are treated with open hostility.

    Maybe Murdoch is adopting the Cartmanland [wikipedia.org] business plan (i.e., if you tell people they can't come, they'll line up in droves). But I don't think it works that way in real life.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      I prefer the Economist myself, but the marketshare argument is old - many Japanese companies destroyed profit in pursuit of this elusive goal. But what good is it to chase readers who go so far as to block ads and don't think the content maker is entitled to anything?

      Apple destroyed the notion that marketshare is end-all, be-all. It's only useful if you can leverage it somehow, but when you do, inevitably 50% of the rats escape the ship for the next thing.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Nobody's entitled to anything. You are supposed to come up with reasons that people will want to give you money so they can get something more valuable to them. That's how a business transaction works.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Additionally, everyone should be surfing using an ad blocker simply due to recorded incidents of malware via ads. Noscript is good too.
        • by delinear (991444) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:49AM (#32964420)
          Exactly, and if readers are going so far as to block ads, I would suggest looking at the reasons why they're blocking ads. It's generally not because they begrudge the site owner earning money, it's more often that the ads are damn annoying and a major distraction to the content. If you can make the ads less distracting, load in a timely fashion and not weigh in at several meg, you may find that's a more sustainable business model on the web than just sticking up a toll booth.
          • by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:23AM (#32965010) Homepage Journal

            One of the things that make me surf away, and stay away, are pop-ups that instantiate when my mouse simply goes over something; if I'm not clicking on it, I don't WANT it. That's the worst mistake a web designer can make, in my estimation. Even worse than annoying ads. Rollovers aren't just a "distraction", they're direct interference with what I'm trying to do -- they cover text and images with no warning and no desire whatsoever on my part to see the popup material.

            The same goes for menus - if I don't click on it, I didn't ASK for it. There are many reasons my mouse may go from hither to yon on a web page, and the ONLY way you know I wanted something it went over is to receive a legitimate click.

            It's far too annoying to treat a web page as a maze of locations you can't let your mouse go through without being abused by a pop-up; once that crap starts, I'm right out of there, and I mean right now.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              Exactly when did any consumer ask for advertising? Inconvenience is the point. It's basically the same process that makes shady salesmen successful financially.

              I agree those are quite annoying, but they do them for a reason -- it works. Maybe not on you or I or a lot of people, but enough to justify it.

              That's why supporting models like adwords is ?good?, and I mean buying not just clicking. Advertisers see they get much better conversion rates from suggestions to interested parties rather than Matthew L

              • by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @11:12AM (#32965828)

                Well you have a good point. No one is asking for ads. However, people *do* want to know about products that they are interested in. I will certainly look at and be interested in an ad for a product that is topical to the site I am looking at. They do serve a purpose, if they can be help factual, interesting and not overwhelming.

                The major problem is not ads, it is the arms race that the advertisers are in to get bigger, more noticeable and more annoying ads on your screen. At this point, ads are extremely obnoxious. In-network ads with jittery animations of images that have nothing to do with their product, and the gigantic, sea-sickness inducing banner ads that are now invading sites like CNN.com where the whole *page* is shifted downward at page load time and then the whole page is shifted back up when it is done. These are the sorts of things that give ads on web pages a really bad name.

                There really is, perhaps not a need, but certainly a good argument for advertisement. The problem is that the advertisements as they are now are trying to overshadow the actual content and that is incredibly annoying, distracting and counterproductive. If the NYT and other content providers had some guts and some intelligence, they would crack down on what advertisers are putting on their pages.

                In the end, I think it would even help advertisers if they didn't have to be in the "bigger, more annoying ad" race. The advertisers, even though they pay for the sites, are becoming parasites on those sites: the content is used to generate page views so that they can cram the page with ads, and then those ads eventually kill the content site because of the annoying ads or the fact that the users now use ad-blockers. When the blockers go up, the site dies as advertisers leave, but the ad-blockers also start forcing the advertisers themselves into an arms race with the ad-blockers who are ultimately the users themselves.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by AmiMoJo (196126)

                  Someone needs to set up a whitelist for AdBlock+. Only companies that show non-evil ads would be allowed on to it. By non-evil I mean:

                  - No pop-ups or pop-unders
                  - No animation
                  - No sound
                  - No Javascript
                  - No cookies
                  - No "1 page per paragraph"
                  - No porn or other NSFW material

                  I was tempted to add "no slow loading ads" too because one major but often unmentioned benefit of AdBlock is that you don't have to wait for overloaded and dog slow ad servers to respond before the page finishes loading.

          • by kg8484 (1755554) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @12:08PM (#32966842)

            If you can make the ads less distracting, load in a timely fashion and not weigh in at several meg, you may find that's a more sustainable business model on the web than just sticking up a toll booth.

            Speaking as someone with an adblocker, I have to say that this still will not work. Why? Because other people will use the annoying ads because they pay more money. So people like me will just install an adblocker and not touch the settings.

            Say I am new to the internet. I visit Anne's site which has a lot of ads that annoy me. I ask my friend Bob how I can get around this and he sets me up with an adblocker. I'm not going to even know how to whitelist certain pages. In fact, "whitelist" would sound like something the Black Panthers carry around, and I don't want any part of that. So now when I visit Carmen's site which contains unobtrusive banner ads, she still doesn't get paid for the impression.

            This is a modern example of the tragedy of the commons. Viewers are grass in the pasture, and each web site operator is a herder, and the cows are the types of ads they have on their web site. Many will try to get more and bigger cows (more ads and more annoying ads), until it is no longer sustainable and the pasture dies (people no longer view ads because everyone has an ad blocker). At this point, even the responsible cattlemen suffer too. This is an oversimplification, but I hope it illustrates my point.

          • Re:The real question (Score:4, Interesting)

            by harl (84412) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @01:07PM (#32967826)

            I don't have a problem with ads. I have a problem with scripts. So I run a script blocker.

            It just happens to have the the side effect of blocking many ads.

        • by pmonje (588285) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @10:24AM (#32965030)
          Actually in this instance, that's not how the business transaction works. That $1.50 you pay for the paper version barely pays for distribution. Newspapers get their profit from advertising. The main problem is that internet advertising sucks. The profit is from click-thrus, not page views, but no one clicks, your eyes basically ignore the ads and you move on to the actual text. Even without an ad-blocker people know to skip the top of the page to avoid banners and stay away from the margins. That's because they are flashy and filled with crap. They contain nothing useful for the reader. Newspaper ads are different, they have more connection to you and even contain useful information. That 1/2 page ad for a local car dealer gives you a general idea of local car prices, same for the real estate ads. The supermarket ad tells you what's on sale this week and gives you coupons. Even ads for local businesses that you will never use promote name recognition and form a sort of local directory in your head keeping you current on your community. The ads in newspapers are relevant to you, they actually form a part of the content of a newspaper. Internet ads have never done that. Google tried with adsense, but it never really works unless you're a lonely man with a small penis and erectile disfunction.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ephemeriis (315124)

        But what good is it to chase readers who go so far as to block ads and don't think the content maker is entitled to anything?

        Except that the content maker isn't entitled to anything.

        Just because you make content doesn't mean I have to give you money. I'm not going to mail a check to Stephen King just because he's written a new novel. I'm only going to give you money if I decide your content is worth it. How exactly that works varies somewhat from one medium to the next... Maybe you show me some previews and I decide to pay for a ticket to go see your movie. Or maybe I read the first few pages or chapter of your book and then

        • Generally speaking, I block ads. It isn't because I'm a malicious asshole that wants to see the entire web publishing industry fall down and die - it's because I don't want to waste my bandwidth loading advertising that I'm not going to look at anyway.

          When the web started, web pages were nodes of info, provided by the people running the sites, with the intent of informing the visitors. That was the whole shooting match. This went on for years, with many cool websites springing up that brought informati

    • Re:The real question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tangential (266113) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:50AM (#32963430) Homepage

      It seems to me like the Times would have been better off offering *premium* content to subscribers rather than closing off the entire site altogether."

      I'm pretty sure that this is the model that the NYT abandoned 6 or 7 years ago as basically not worth the trouble. I guess they decided that advertising was worth more to them at the time. They've been talking about bringing back a paywall lately. I wonder how this result will impact that decision.

      They might find more revenue with premium content only available thru subscriptions using dedicated, well designed iPhone/iPad apps.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GIL_Dude (850471)
        You know, the NYT seems to have some sort of a "sign up" wall days (free sign up). I have been using the News and Weather app that is standard on Android 2.1 to view news stories on my phone. Unfortunately, many of the stories lately seem to be NYT links. When you follow these, you get maybe a paragraph or two of article followed by a "sign up for free to see the rest of the article and all our other stuff". That's not quite as annoying as a pay wall, but it isn't something I am going to do. Creating an acc
      • by mitgib (1156957)

        They might find more revenue with premium content only available thru subscriptions using dedicated, well designed iPhone/iPad apps.

        I don't know if you just really enjoy your Apple products or not. Personally if you are going to offer something with a lock to something else, I'm not going to be interested. Let me consume your offering how I choose, not how you dictate, and then if I find it useful/valuable I will be happy to subscribe. I feel putting worry about theft over concern for subscribers only reduces subscribers.

    • Re:The real question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:51AM (#32963448) Journal

      You can have the best reporters in the world, but if they're speaking to an empty room, they might as well not exist.

      So, my understanding of this whole very interesting situation, is that journalism used to work by rewarding the journalists who went out and got a scoop, did investigative reporting or uncovered some huge scandal. That information was priceless and they would spend precious hours building up that report for an air date. Once their channel or printed paper ran that story, it would take a day or more for the rest to follow suit. Meanwhile you had a whole day of the public's attention on your channel/newspaper/magazine.

      Enter the internet. For all intents and purposes of this discussion, she is the instantaneous transmission of such news stories. And duplication. How much time are you the center of attention when you break the story? A minute? Two minutes? You could have the best damned reporters in the world and some percentage of people will settle on reading a headline off of Slashdot or Google News that reads: "Murdoch Loses 90% of Readers with Times Paywall" instead of going to the source that called the Times and got that datum. And if I run a blog, all I need do is paraphrase everything in your article and suddenly I'm a contender for the endpoint of this information.

      It seems to me like the Times would have been better off offering *premium* content to subscribers rather than closing off the entire site altogether.

      What premium content do you have in mind? Do you think that doing even more exhaustive research on a story is going to change any of what I just explained? And what are you going to do when a blogger subscribes to your $5 per week premium content and then blogs about all of it at freetimes.blogspot.com? What then? Copyright lawsuits? Nobody cares. People say "offer premium content" with a wave of their hands. Well, what did you have in mind? I tried to discuss an alternative of this on Slashdot [slashdot.org] to no avail where basically there would be a pyramid of fractions of ad payments from those subscribed to your site cascading up to the original source.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:55AM (#32963522)
        Well, /. itself is a pretty good example of how this can work. The basics are available for free, but subscribers get nice perks. I'm more than happy to pay extra for those perks. But I never would have even considered subscribing if, on my first visit to the site, I had been greeted with a big wall that said "You can't see ANYTHING here until you pay us."
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by eldavojohn (898314) *

          Well, /. itself is a pretty good example of how this can work. The basics are available for free, but subscribers get nice perks. I'm more than happy to pay extra for those perks.

          What "premium content" does Slashdot offer us as subscribers, exactly? We get plums 20 minutes to an hour ahead of the rest of the people and we can get a set number of pages without ads.

          Was this your answer to what 'premium' content The Times should offer its readers? I have read many of your posts and have a genuine interest in what you might have for ideas to this very broad and allegedly large problem online news sources are facing. And they cannot retreat back to their old ways because the inte

          • What "premium content" does Slashdot offer us as subscribers, exactly? We get plums 20 minutes to an hour ahead of the rest of the people and we can get a set number of pages without ads.

            There are other minor perks too (although now that my subscription "impressions" have been exhausted, oddly, I now have a "remove ads" checkbox on the front page??). When I subscribed for the past 4 years, it was for the extended comment history.

            NB and OT: I decided not to resub after still never once getting mod points. 10+ years now, so I can only assume I'm blacklisted on the backend, so they don't need my money anymore.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by apoc.famine (621563)

            Was this your answer to what 'premium' content The Times should offer its readers?

            There are lots and lots of options here...off the top of my head:

            1) Access to every article of every edition. If someone comes unsubscribed from a Google link, they get the story they are looking for. Maybe the day's headlines. But that's it. Subscribers can get access to it all.
            2) Links between articles, followup stories, categories to browse. Read an article on Xe Services LLC? Subscribers get a list of stories to pick from that go back years, including the name change (Blackwater Worldwide, for those th

        • Re:The real question (Score:4, Interesting)

          by natehoy (1608657) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:10AM (#32963718) Journal

          Yeah, except Slashdot works on a totally different economy of scale than a newsgathering organization.

          How many traffic/camera helicopters does Slashdot have in the air? How many reporters do they hire in the Gulf of Mexico to cover the oil spill? None. They have volunteers submit "reprints" from other organizations who are themselves "reprinters" or in some cases the actual newsgathering organization. They have more volunteers who audit them, and more volunteers to run a vibrant discussion community.

          The money gleaned from running Slashdot after paying for bandwidth and a little hookers and blow for the shareholders could never support even a handful of independent cub reporters, much less a decent newsgathering crew or a reprint subscription to Reuters.

          Slashdot is actually a prime example of why the traditional print news media are having trouble. It costs a good deal of money to get good coverage of the news, and traditionally subscribers have paid for that. But now it's available everywhere, for free.

          They'll dry up, and the only organizations left will be those that are big enough to use economies of scale in advertising to raise enough money. Which means the population of paid professional newsgatherers is going to plummet, replaced by reprints of the gist of Twitterstorms and the like.

          May not be a complete disaster, but the Times (and the Gazette, and the Post) they are a'changin.

        • by sorak (246725) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:28AM (#32964056)

          That may work for /., and I'm not saying the paid wall will work for anybody else, but the problem is that /. has a much lower overhead than traditional media, because they do not pay reporters to do investigative journalism. If every story linked on the site had to be written by a slashdot employee, then their accounting would look a little different. Then there's the fact that, when people think about news media, they seem to think only of the major players in large markets. Small towns, consisting of 100,000 people or less need news as well, but it is nearly impossible to support local reporters, editors, and managers when you're getting paid 2 dollars for every 1,000 banners delivered.

          If we assumed 50,000 hits per day, that's $100 per day for every banner shown on a typical page. If we assumed three reporters and an editor, getting paid $30,000 per year, one IT guy and a manger, getting paid $40,000 per year, then the website would have to display six banners per page, and maintain a paper interesting enough to keep the 50,000 impressions per day they're currently getting. ($200,000 in salary, divided by 365 is $547 per day). This isn't taking into account other expenses, like paying rent, benefits,taxes, hardware costs, or anything else. The point is that the banner-driven business model is not going to work for small papers, unless some significant changes take place.

          And that is why newspapers want to kill the internet and go back to the 80's/early 90's.

          I don't know what the answer is, and I don't think paid walls are the answer either, but local newspapers will have to do something differently if they wish to survive. The problem is that the only people willing to pay for content are advertisers, and what that's just a pittance.

      • by Zumbs (1241138)

        It seems to me like the Times would have been better off offering *premium* content to subscribers rather than closing off the entire site altogether.

        What premium content do you have in mind? Do you think that doing even more exhaustive research on a story is going to change any of what I just explained? And what are you going to do when a blogger subscribes to your $5 per week premium content and then blogs about all of it at freetimes.blogspot.com? What then? Copyright lawsuits? Nobody cares. People say "offer premium content" with a wave of their hands. Well, what did you have in mind? I tried to discuss an alternative of this on Slashdot [slashdot.org] to no avail where basically there would be a pyramid of fractions of ad payments from those subscribed to your site cascading up to the original source.

        I cannot speak for grandparent, but some options for premium content or pay advantages could be ad-free viewing, a convenient search function, access to older articles and/or larger background articles.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by vlm (69642)

          I cannot speak for grandparent, but some options for premium content or pay advantages could be ad-free viewing, a convenient search function, access to older articles and/or larger background articles.

          Ability to bookmark and permanently save "favorite articles". Ability to "like" on facebook or whatever. Ability to comment blog, or even more valuable, filter comments to remove the idiots. Ability to suggest articles to friends / family. Ability to directly email the author, and possibly even get a response. Graphics displayed at 150 dpi instead of 50 dpi. Graphics displayed in full 24 bit color instead of monochrome. Ability to mod up and mod down articles (people will actually pay for the privile

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SharpFang (651121)

        Gazeta Wyborcza [gazeta.pl], about the biggest newspaper in Poland has an interesting approach: current online content is free, archive is paid. You can search it, get a short blurb of found articles but to access them in full, you have to purchase access to the archive, about $5/hour, or more expensive options like monthly etc.

      • by rickb928 (945187) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:32AM (#32964128) Homepage Journal

        This is an 'old' truth. What's the most perishable product the local supermarket sells?

        Eggs? Nope.

        Lettuce? Nu uh.

        Milk? not even close.

        Newspapers. They are delivered fresh every morning, and no matter how you store them, they are pretty much useless and unwanted by noon. Afternoon papers. were so perishable they woudl be delivered around 4pm and didn't even get past the dinner hour and useless. By 8pm no one wanted one. The stores made the publishers take them back the next day.

        Unless you were moving and needed dishwrap, in which case you could usually buy the Sunday paper for half-price. Cheaper than actual wrapping paper.

        They call it fish-wrap for a reason.

        So the NYT is finding out not much has changed. The Internet has compressed the news cycle from about 4 hours (breakfast, paper, work, coffee pot, water cooler, lunch, on to the next story) to about 15 minutes (breakfast, email, Google, forwards to friends, blog, done). What we get now is the repetition of the current 's t o r y', and then on to the next one.

        I recall knowing a lot of people in local television in the 80s. I spotted a reporterette out with her cameraman onw day downtown, and mentioned that I saw a competing station's crew down the street about 10 minutes ago. She panicked - "OH MY GOD, what did we miss?" Turns out a jewelry shop owner was running for mayor. She already did that story at city hall. But it was competitive. Guess where? The smallest market in the U.S. that had all 4 networks at the time. News has always been competitive. Now it's also more open. The big guys don't have the advantages. You don't need to buy ink by the barrel any more, just by the megabyte.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        And what are you going to do when a blogger subscribes to your $5 per week premium content and then blogs about all of it at freetimes.blogspot.com? What then? Copyright lawsuits?

        Only if the blogger cuts and pastes; if he rewrites it in his own words, it's his. You can't copyright information, only its expression.

      • I could subscribe to The Times and set up a clone site in some remote country, copying and pasting their content verbatim alongside some adverts for viagara and porn.

        How much traffic do you think I'd get? How much could I charge for advertising there? I bet it's happening/happened as I write this.

      • The internet still hasn't changed the scoop angle IMO. I watch plenty of news coverage as well as reading articles, and the original reporters still get a lot of props (along with their publisher). Pay attention to the talking heads on TV. Usually, the guy or girl who broke the story does a round of interviews like a celebrity pitching a movie. Case in point, Dana Priest did an investigation of the new intelligence lobby and the waste it's created (well waste for the government, and profit for a few) fo

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Crypto Gnome (651401)

        You could have the best damned reporters in the world and some percentage of people will settle on reading a headline off of Slashdot or Google News that reads: "Murdoch Loses 90% of Readers with Times Paywall" instead of going to the source that called the Times and got that datum.

        Your argument is ignoring the real facts of the matter. The readers who got all they needed from the well-crafted headline would never pay for your content, no matter what form it was presented in. Those headline-sniffers are the same people who DO NOT purchase newspapers, but merely browse the front-pages while purchasing a latte at their local cafe.

        So, implying that 'the internet' somehow (magically) "ruined" those potential customers of yours is UTTER RUBBISH.

        You know what KILLS "the news" in the inter

    • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:52AM (#32963468) Journal
      Here, let me edit your words a bit;

      Maybe Murdoch... would ... like the Times ... to ... not exist.
      • by xelah (176252)
        I'm sure that given a choice between it losing him money and it not existing, he'd choose the latter. If few are prepared to pay for news for as long as there is at least one decent free source then that may even be the outcome. Maybe that's why he hates the BBC so much.
    • by beh (4759) * on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:04AM (#32963632)

      Berner Zeitung (one of the two main papers in the Swiss capital) used this approach about 10 or so years ago, but (unfortunately, I thought) shut it down after a bit over a year.

      What they did was to allow anyone free access to the full articles of the current day, but at the same time offer an online subscription for (IIRC) ~USD 40,-/yr. The online subscriber got some extra benefits in being able to access all full articles - not just the current day; and were able to download pdf page views of the actual papers as well, and give a search functionality for their news archive.

      Overall at the time, I really liked the offering, and was saddened when they shut it down (not profitable)... I just think, they had been too early trying it. I think it could be a decent model for a lot of papers today...

      • Access to a newspapers archives would be nice and worth paying for. Access to the days news, when it is available at 6 million other sites, give or take an order of magnitude, is not.
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      It seems to me like the Times would have been better off offering *premium* content to subscribers rather than closing off the entire site altogether.

      The New York Times tried this for about a year. It didn't take.

    • by goober (120298)

      What I'd like to know is how many of that 10% are paying to get the news content, or the crossword puzzle. Seriously.

    • by samkass (174571)

      The real question is how many of those remaining users are actual *new* subscribers and not just those who had already had print subscriptions even before the change.

      On the contrary, my first thought was how many of those 90% were just adblock freeloaders who were trying to get content without allowing the ads that pay for the content anyway? Losing them just means lower bandwidth bills and better profitability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the voucher system for journalists to allow them access to the site did not work and they then had to set up paid for accounts. Depending on the numbers that would further distort the figures.

  • 10% remains? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:37AM (#32963256)

    If 10% of the traffic remains even with the paywall, that's phenomenal success. On the other hand, most statistics are made up on the spot. 90% of all people know that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      Yeah, but that's only true 20% of the time.
    • but a 90% reduction in ad revenue is a right kick in the head.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        You're not looking at it correctly. That's 90% of their online customers that are spared from Murdoch's incompetent propaganda. I'd say that's a net win, just not for him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      That's what I was thinking too. The numbers we had when they announced it said that they needed to keep 1% of the readership for it to remain as profitable as before. Keeping 10% means they're making a lot more money than they were.
  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:38AM (#32963270)
    ... is that people will just say "screw that!" and go to another website where they can get it for free. World events aren't copyrighted to any one provider (for now, anyway...)
    • Yep, and even if all the current news providers went the same way, it would just clear the way for a new news provider to step in and claim the internet news market for themself. CNN came out of nowhere to a dominant position, and no doubt other news organization will appear in the future as opportunities arise. In the meantime the BBC and CNN are good enough... I already deleted my UK times bookmarks a few weeks ago.

      Someone will make "free" (i.e advertisement based) internet news work, just as someone (Goo

      • As long as a ring of websites try and work together to force the issue and all go to the paysite model, someone will still offer free news and people will go there. The day where no free news remain on the internet? Well, there's always network news at six and eleven, isn't there? There will always be a free options somewhere.
  • £2 probably represents 2000 ad views. With their original viewing figures they would've had to have 200 ad views a week per user to make that kind of revenue which is a big ask.

    So long as they can maintain or grow those subscriber numbers, this has actually been fairly successful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851)
      You mean until the novelty wears off and people realize that they're getting screwed. The print customers with free access which is presumably the majority aren't actually paying anything for the privilege, so most likely it isn't going to fly. Especially when people start to figure out that they've been had.
      • You mean until the novelty wears off and people realize that they're getting screwed. The print customers with free access which is presumably the majority aren't actually paying anything for the privilege, so most likely it isn't going to fly. Especially when people start to figure out that they've been had.

        Except they're paying for the print subscription...

        • by hedwards (940851)
          Yes, but they were already paying for that. It's probably a net loss as they presumably aren't showing ads to paying customers, meaning that they're getting the revenue they got excluding the ad revenue.
    • by Zumbs (1241138)
      By your math, if there are 10 ads per page, each user only has to watch 20 pages per week. On my preferred online newspaper, I view at least 5-10 pages per *day*, and sometimes more.
      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        Without knowing their stats it's impossible to know how regular their visitors are. There will be a significant 'front page only' visitors, visitors coming for a single article and ones that only visit when incredibly bored.

        There may be 10 ads but I'd imagine the revenue for them plummets once you look outside of a skyscraper and main banner.
    • Yes - people seem to be missing this point. The Times isn't doing this to win a popularity contest - it's doing it to increase revenue. And by most estimates, the revenue from subscriptions to this content will be more than ad revenue -- likely they still have ads in place as well? If not, they should - that would let them give two tiers of subscription. Basic and "ad-free". As long as they integrate the ads into the actual content (and don't use third party services) they're not trivial to block.

      A

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:44AM (#32963362) Homepage

    Because if you're a publicist, why would you offer The Times content in return for publicity that nobody will see? If you're a columnist, how does it help your career to write articles that nobody reads, or can link to?

    By reducing the number of readers, they're not just cutting off advertising revenue, they're also making it more expensive to obtain content.

    • by smeette (1095117) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:22AM (#32963926)
      Actually, the Times can make this a great success. They've just filtered out all the freeloaders and now have a nice exclusive club of readers willing to pay for something on the Internet. I would say that's far, far more valuable than all the riff-raff that want something for free. They'll be charging top-dollar for advertising/features now, and not have any problems filling those side columns.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ztransform (929641)

        They've just filtered out all the freeloaders and now have a nice exclusive club of readers willing to pay for something on the Internet.

        Indeed. Apple, of course, have this same advantage. They know their users are all willing to pay money, lots of money, often without regard to the actual value of the product/service they are receiving.

        Anybody subscribing to The Times' new technically inferior website (to their old one) is clearly not-all-that-discerning when it comes to paying for things.

        Maybe The Times do know what they are doing (or appear that way by accident).

    • Lots of people are referencing NYT articles with little to no attribution. So much of those eyeballs are worthless to the NYT as far as business and word-of-mouth are concerned. Rather than have thousands of blogs quoting and talking about the articles *you* paid to produce, the times is saying "OK, we're not going to be a nearly anonymous middle man for the 'new' generation of news coverage. All you guys want to reference our content? Pay us." They're not worried about shutting out 90% of the people r

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        They're worried about their content getting copied and pasted all over creation.

        So this leaves two options:

        1. Someone with a subscription will copy and paste their story all over the web because 99.99999% of the human race can no longer access their web site directly.
        2. No-one will care about their stories anymore becasue no-one can copy and paste them and no-one will link to them.

        And, I shouldn't just blame blogs. The AP does that crap too.

        Every single news story I've been involved with has been seriously misrepresented in the media.

  • It's like parking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:45AM (#32963372)

    If every single store in your city offers free parking, and you decide to charge for it, and you find you still have 1 in 10 customers willing to shop there, are you doing well when you're too lazy to check the parking lot for cars?

    Once the Times does that, they'll find that 10% is mooching parking from elsewhere or taking the bus. And, no surprise, the other store owners are even more solidified that they keep their free parking (by towing away your customers).

    Now you could get away with charging for parking if everyone else is doing it, but lets face it, we're not running out of internet, so that won't happen.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Amusingly, you've described the fifty year old "shopping downtown vs shopping in the suburbs" problem and believe it or not, people still claim to "not understand" why retail is dying downtown, and will come up with all kinds of insane justifications to avoid thinking about that simple fact. Maybe the problem is lack of scrapbooking and candle stores? Or we need wider sidewalks? No, it must be the use of plastic bags instead of requiring only "green" paper bags. Anything to avoid thinking about reality.

    • by brit74 (831798)
      I don't think that analogy works. For one thing, what the store owner wants is sales in his store. By charging for parking, he's driving away store customers. In the NYT example, it's entirely possible to make more money from 10% of the readers than from keeping all the readers and getting ad-revenue. For example, if you make 1 cent per reader on an ad-based revenue model, and 20 cents per reader on a paywall model, then moving 10% of your readers to paywall and losing the other 90% will still give you
  • by Nick Fel (1320709) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:46AM (#32963378)
    Because two days earlier, the very same newspaper reported they'd only lost 66% of their readership [guardian.co.uk].
    • by abigsmurf (919188)
      The Guardian have been mocking the Times/Murdoch over his business practices. A bit rich coming from a media company that lost something like £230 million last year...

      The Grauniad does provide a nice contrast to the right wing tabloids but they're not above printing questionable articles to push an agenda.

      BBC is still my top news site, only major news outlet I know of with a strong mandate designed to minimise bias.
  • Paywall (Score:3, Funny)

    by somaTh (1154199) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @08:49AM (#32963424) Journal
    I tried reading the article from the NY Times itself, but it's behind a paywall.
  • Broken record (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sircastor (1051070) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:00AM (#32963594)

    Yup: Paywall bad idea. They will reap the consequences, blah blah blah.

    The hardest thing they're going to have to learn to grasp in new media economics is that it's not just their business model that's changing. It's not just that they're going to have to stop expecting people to pay for their services like they did before. Their entire industry is going through a massive shift. Personally, the only way I see newspapers surviving is that they become tremendously small outfits. 10-man operations that produce solely for the web and offer a print-on-demand version for those who are interested. Your staff of a dozen reporters and the hundred people who support them aren't going to last here. Print journalism as an industry just can't support those people the way it used to.

    Is journalism dead? No. But I think massive news companies are. Journalists and the "Ace Reporter" are going to become free agents. Newspapers are going to become aggregators of the information they collect, and they'll likely have to secure a story with a fee or a retainer. I have sympathy for the people whose jobs are disappearing, but I think every time a job disappears, a new industry grows and more jobs are created.

    In a semi-related note, I think that DC should do a Superman storyline where Clark gets laid-off because the Planet can't support his job anymore.

    • In a semi-related note, I think that DC should do a Superman storyline where Clark gets laid-off because the Planet can't support his job anymore.

      I doubt Clark would really be all that bothered. He's been a published author for a long time now - he makes more money from his books than he does at the Planet....

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:06AM (#32963648)

    used to be that they owned the classifieds. if you wanted to sell something you would advertise in a newspaper. then ebay, google, craigslist and others took the market and the newspapers didn't do anything about it. i know someone who advertised a condo for sale in the NY Times last year and i thought it was a joke and a waste of money. so 1990's. these days you do craiglist and sell it yourself or go to a realtor. even the realtors don't advertise anything in the newspapers. the same ad every weekend just to get customers in. the lead time is so long that it's a waste of time trying to advertise new properties in the newspaper.

    if the newspapers want revenue they need to start an open source type for sale/job listing site and share the revenue. but it's too late

    • by brit74 (831798)
      I'm not sure how your solution solves anything. People are going to sell through the newspaper even though craigslist is free? And they'll do that because of "revenue sharing"? Sharing of what revenue? When someone sells through craigslist, they keep 100% of the revenue. I guess I disagree with your analysis that "the newspapers screwed up their business models", and think it's more a matter of getting hit by the "everything is free on the internet, jump in and give it away for free (destroying your ow
  • I tried to..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by moodel (614846) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:07AM (#32963680)
    ....... login thinking that since I already payed for a sub on my Kindle that I might at least be given access to the website. To my horror I found out that they wanted me to pay a new sub :/ I tried to submit a question asking if I might get some money off the subscription as I already received The Times on my Kindle but guess what? The question submission form on their website doesn't work! Awesome \o/ I'll stick to the Guardian. I've also canceled my Kindle sub.
  • by jfoobaz (1844794) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:07AM (#32963682)

    This is based on an estimate by the Guardian, without any data provided by the Times to back it up. It could well be true, but it's basically wild speculation without actual numbers to back it up.

  • It really surprises me that 10% of people still read it. I have accidentally followed news feeds to the firewall half a dozen times, I would have thought that only 1 or 2% would have gone on to pay to see the page.
  • by dawilcox (1409483) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:16AM (#32963794)
    This comment (and most comments posted here) seem to fail to address the real purpose of the Times.

    The Times understand that they are undergoing an initial loss to set a new standard in online news. They hope that other news sites will follow suit. If and after they do, you will not be able to get the story on any other web site. Subsequently, subscribers should increase and revenue should increase.

    So, it's not surprising that they're not making a profit on this switch, because frankly, they're probably not trying to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nyctopterus (717502)

      This seems like the plan, but I don't see how it could possibly work. As more papers go behind paywalls, the remaining free ones will see climbing readership, and due to the economies of scale with online publishing, will start to make real money. Why go behind a paywall then? This is exactly what is happening in the online Times vs. Guardian battle right now. With 30% of the online news market, you might break even, with close to 100%, you'll make a killing.

      There will always be free online news, because th

  • Those figures look like this is going to be a successful strategy for the company. Other "apocryphal" sources would have suggested that 95% loss would have been expected.
  • "Which Times"?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IBBoard (1128019) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:27AM (#32964038) Homepage

    "WhichTimes"? This article is really tagged "WhichTimes"? It's the real and proper Times, damnit. The one that's called "The Times" (unless it is a Sunday, at which point it is called "The Sunday Times").

    On a more serious note, it's good to see that they're getting large amounts of people abandonning ship for other places, but 10% subscription rate still seems worryingly good and enough for them to keep it there.

    • "WhichTimes"? This article is really tagged "WhichTimes"? It's the real and proper Times, damnit. The one that's called "The Times" (unless it is a Sunday, at which point it is called "The Sunday Times").

      You mean, it's the one that's so out of touch with reality that it doesn't recognize that, in the last 220 years, some real and legitimate competition has arisen? No wonder they're having trouble adjusting to the 12st century

      Luckily, if things keep going the way they are, there will only be one Times again. Though probably not that one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    On the face of it, this actually looks like a success -- if you believe that they actually retained an amazing 10% (about which I'm skeptical) and if they can sustain that rate (i.e. people don't tire of paying after a month or two).

    Ads don't pay much. When I get an IO for an ad that pays a penny per impression ($10 CPM), I am very happy. If there are n people paying 2 pounds (I'll call that $3) per week, then to match that, the free-access-but-ads model with 10*n people would need to generate $0.30 per w

  • by Faizdog (243703) on Tuesday July 20, 2010 @09:46AM (#32964348)

    I'm probably a minority dwarfed by free-loading readers, but free online NYT access led me to buy a full 7-day a week subscription to the paper.

    I used to (and still do) go to Google News for my daily news digest (one of many sources I'd visit). Over time, I noticed that many of the stories I was interested were from either the NY Times or the LA Times. Furthermore, I noticed that for stories I'd read on many sites linked to from Google News, the NY Times (and LA Times) versions were regularly better written and more informative in my opinion.

    Due to this (and the fact that I live in the suburbs of NYC) I started to regularly read the full paper online on the NYT website. After a few months of this, I decided that I found this quality reporting valuable, and worth supporting. Furthermore, I relocated a little further away from the city and was now commuting by train instead of by car. So I then decided to by a subscription. Now I have the paper delivered every day, and they have me as a full, loyal subscriber. All because of the free online access they provided.

    But for everyone of me, there are probably a lot of free-loaders.

    • This article isn't about the New York Times, it's about The Times [thetimes.co.uk] / The Sunday Times... a UK newspaper.

  • Looks like the Associated Press and Reuters wire articles must be good enough for the masses.

    No different than..

    Downsampled/compressed 720p streams sent to your 1080p capable TV
    Downsampled/compressed music (mp3s) on your iPod.

    The moral of the story here.. the masses love a great "value" and the most important factor is cost over quality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eunuchswear (210685)

      Looks like the Associated Press and Reuters wire articles must be good enough for the masses.

      No, some of us don't want to read Murdochs crap. We can get our news from a real newspaper, like the Guardian, or Libération, or well, just about anything.

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