Two US sites are publishing details of the hits Murdoch’s Times/Sunday Times paywall launch is getting. Although on different bases to the Slog scoop of two days ago, they tell a similar story:
* A pathetic 1.2% of the previous online user base have subscribed.
* 75% of the online traffic (even to the free headlines page) has disappeared.
* A further 1% are paying through IPad – a fascinating commentary on the growing power of mobile apps.
* That would produce £2.75 million a year of subscriber income.
To say it’s nowhere near enough is the understatement of the year. As US media commentator Henry Blodget observes, ‘It wouldn’t even begin to offset the cost of the Times’ huge newsroom.’
In turn, a Times blogger has told the Guardian, “One minute I was writing for the Times. Then along came a massive great paywall – and having managed to escape in the nick of time, I then found myself headhunted by those kindly souls at The Guardian….”. Just don’t say anything controversial chum, or your feet won’t touch the ground.
Of course, Murdoch persevered for years to get his disgusting satellite dishes onto the roofs of cricket and footie fans everywhere. But way back then, Roop had serious mountains of cash. This time he’s having to buy the mountain (from a truculent BSkyB)…and the income from that isn’t going to get this show on the road. Plus – let’s not forget – the FT experience has been that the early surge of addicts signing up soon fades away to lower numbers. The FT has a quality, well-informed product that justifies the premium. As for the Times, Rupert Murdoch is the victim of his own cultural dumbing down: it looks like around two people per hundred want to subscribe to a paper whose reading age is 14.
Even money says that most of those subscribers want to read either Simon Jenkins or Minette Marrin. Both fine journalists – who’d be well advised to move elsewhere.
Sorry readers: the delicious irony of this disaster is something millions of us have desired for three decades. Simon and Minette not being read is a crime, but neither of them will have trouble finding a new mass audience. In the meantime, Newscorp shareholders will be feeling anxious tonight; Murdoch’s empire is now looking at a disappearing MySpace, a Premiership built on sand – and paywalls without footings.