View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. Comment
November 2, 2010updated 23 Aug 2022 7:22pm

Times paywall numbers: Rupert Murdoch’s long game could yet pay off

By Dominic Ponsford1

At first glance the first official reader figures for the The Times and Sunday Times’ paywalled websites do not look great.

Around 50,000 readers have signed up to become monthly subscribers of the websites, iPad editions and Kindle editions (and that figure also includes corporate subscribers). That’s just over 12,000 a month.

News International has lumped in all the pay-as-you go sales which weren’t renewed to come up with a more eye-catching 105,000 cumulative total: you can read the NI press release here.

The figures seem disappointing to me, especially compared with the more than 20 million unique users a month who used to visit the free-to-air Times Online website. But then again as a long-game strategy perhaps this could still pay off.

Taking a very ‘glass is half full’ view of the figures – at the current rate of growth the websites could have 1.2m subscribers in 10 years time, more than enough to replace departing print readers.

While recent year-on-year print circulation declines are horrendous for The Times (down 14.8 per cent) and Sunday Times (down 9.5 per cent), these reflect the axing of bulk give-aways. The picture over the last few months has been a lot more stable.

In June The Times had 503,642 print sales and the Sunday Times had 1,085,724. By September The Times had dropped to 486,868 and the Sunday Times was actually slightly up to 1,091,869.

Content from our partners
New technology from EX.CO helps publishers double on-site video revenue
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms

So looking at the combined print and online totals both The Times and Sunday Times appear to have increase their paying readerships over the last four months. Not a bad result at all.

This 50,000 figure is way below some of the wild estimates put out by web metrics companies over the last few months. But taken in the round it could signal a news business that has a future.

This is still very early days for Operation Paywall and, perhaps surprisingly for a 79-year-old, I think Rupert Murdoch is playing the long game on this one.

Email to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network