Media buyers demand subscriber figures from Murdoch

As reports suggest the News of the World will erect a paywall in October, followed by the Sun, there are ominous rumblings from the media buying fraternity about News International’s worth as a digital brand, now that its unique users figure has dropped so dramatically since the Times and Sunday Times paywall went up.

With the unique user number down to 1.61 million in July, compared with 2.79 million pre-paywall, agencies are demanding that News International reveal the number of paying subscribers it has achieved — estimates for this vary from 15,000 to around 90,000, neither of which are very encouraging for advertisers.

Brand confidence is a delicate and intangible thing and it must be worrying for Rupert Murdoch that the previously supportive advertising community is now starting to question the worth of his flagship digital titles. Some reassurance is required and soon.

As for the NOTW and Sun plans to charge reader fees online, it may seem counter-intuitive but perhaps they have a better chance of building a decent subscriber base than their upmarket stable mates.

The two tabloids are primarily about celebrities and cheeky entertainment and arguably have stronger brand personalities than News International’s broadsheet duo. The exclusive, or first-view, video content they compile from their stings and revelations might be enough of a property to get the punters signing up in droves.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.