SAVIOUR OF JOURNALISM [*cough*] Rupert Murdoch has finally revealed his Times and Sunday Times paywall readership.
According to the BBC, the number of readers who have stayed on to pay for content has dropped way down to 105,000. There are also another 100,000 users signed up to a joint subscription that get the newspapers in print and e-format.
The newspapers' online websites have been behind Murdoch's subscription paywall since July after Rupert decided to save journalism by charging for content. The Times was losing money and could no longer afford to invest in reportage, he claimed. So Murdoch started charging for online content to squeeze as much profit as he could from a new revenue stream. Naturally, he was also performing a service to save the entire newspaper industry from collapse.
The INQUIRER reported in October that a Nielsen study drew ominous conclusions regarding the Times online subscription service. Before the paywall went up, the Times and Sunday Times had three million unique visitors per month. After it started on a free trial that plunged to just 1.7 million. Then only 20 per cent of that 1.7 million went behind the paywall.
The figures released concur with the Nielsen study, but management at the Times tried to put a positive spin on the experiment by calling the 90 per cent loss of readership a great success.
"It's very early days but we're hugely encouraged by what we've seen," said Times editor James Harding.
"We'd engaged in a quite suicidal form of economics - which was giving our journalism away for free. We knew that if we continued to do that we couldn't invest in reporting," he added.
So Murdoch is pressing forward with the future of "quality journalism in digital formats", despite driving away 90 per cent of his audience in the process. µ