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The New York Times paywall leads to plummeting readership

Gets the Murdoch effect
Tue Apr 12 2011, 13:05

NEWS ORGANISATION The New York Times is feeling the pinch after erecting a paywall on its website, according to figures from Hitwise.

The New York Times became the latest old media institution to put up a paywall on its website, following Rupert Murdoch's lead with the London Times.

Confirmed readership figures for the London Times following its paywall installation have been closely guarded but web traffic monitoring firms have noted significant declines and it seems the New York Times is suffering a similar fate.

Web analytics firm Hitwise reports that The New York Times' daily readership figures fell between five per cent and 15 per cent for the 12 days following the paywall's installation. Of greater concern are Hitwise's page view figures, which show declines of up to 30 per cent, with most days showing close to a 20 per cent drop in page views on The New York Times' website.

There had been a lot of noise regarding the cost of the New York Times' paywall, with some reports pegging it at $50 million while others claimed something in the neighbourhood of $25 million. Techniques to bypass the 20 articles per month limit were also posted but despite the cost and methods to circumnavigate the paywall, if Hitwise's figures are accurate, The New York Times need not worry about its web servers buckling under the traffic load.

It is likely that Murdoch and other News International executives are watching how The New York Times fares very closely. Murdoch has said a number of times that paywalls are the only way to guarantee quality journalism on the web. That may be up for debate but what isn't in question is that erecting paywalls hits audience figures hard.

Both Murdoch and The New York Times will have to wait and see whether revenue from subscribers can offset the losses in advertising revenues due to plummeting audience figures. µ


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